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Ending Bystander Effect by Becoming an Upstander, and EVERYONE IS WATCHING by Heather Gudenkauf

Cover of the book Everyone is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf used to teach the concept of Ending Bystander Effect by Becoming an Upstander.

Usually, my posts focus on one character. Today’s post focuses on 20 million.


One Lucky Winner is a game show featuring five contestants from across the country competing to win $10 million. The competitors are desperate for the money and willing to do anything to be the last one standing. The stakes are as high as the payout, and the challenges quickly move from dangerous to deadly.


One Lucky Winner is wildly popular and quickly amasses over 20 million viewers. Viewers watch the show and post comments online. They also vote for who is eliminated. In the comments, people frequently question whether the challenges on the show are too dangerous and whether anyone should call the police to save the contestants. Unsurprising to anyone familiar with the bystander effect, no one does.


The bystander effect refers to the relationship between the number of witnesses (bystanders) and the likelihood that witnesses act. When large groups observe things like bullying, emergencies, assaults, etc., the probability that the witnesses will intervene decreases. The reasons for this phenomenon include a perceived diffusion of responsibility, confusion about whether action is needed based on the inaction of others, and concern about the social desirability of intervening.


Upstanders are the heroes who live by the motto, “If you see something, say something.” Their actions are not just commendable, but they also inspire us to be better. Upstanders stop bad situations and save people. Here are some tips for ending bystander effect by becoming an upstander:


Pretend You’re The Only Witness: This shift in perspective can increase your sense of responsibility. It's about realizing you can make a difference, even if you're the only one who sees the problem.


Use Your Voice: Ask if things are okay, call the authorities, and loudly announce that the police are coming. This both initiates the professional response system and empowers others to act.


Treat the Victim How You’d Want To Be Treated: Ask yourself what you’d want others to do if you were in a bad situation and do it. Focus on the altruistic parts of helping over any potential consequences of helping.


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