Munich scientists study bystander effect

People are more likely to turn from passive bystanders to good Samaritans in situations that are dangerous or violent, German researchers report.

"The good news is that when people are in real trouble, they have a good chance of receiving help," said lead researcher Dr. Peter Fischer, of Ludwig-Maximilian University, in Munich.

The study included 54 women and 32 men who were told they were going to monitor the interaction between a man and a woman they had never met. These two people were actually actors who had been instructed to stage an increasingly violent confrontation.

The researchers wanted to observe how long it took before individual study participants attempted to break up the fight. To vary the degree of apparent danger, the researchers used different sized male and female actors. In some situations, the study participant was accompanied by a second person, who had been told not to respond to the situation, informs Forbes.

An experiment in which actors pretended to be in a fight revealed the opposite of what had been expected. In circumstances that might lead to violence and injury, people were more - not less - likely to step in.

German researchers from the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich recruited 32 men and 54 women for the study, without revealing the nature of the investigation. Each volunteer was told to monitor interactions between a man and a woman who had never met. In fact the couple were actors.

After a few minutes, they pretended to have a confrontation which became violent.

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