Updated : 2017.5.29 Mon 13:53
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Don’t be afraid to offer help
2017년 05월 25일 (목) 23:36:18 Ewha Voice evoice@ewha.ac.kr

Usually, during first-aid classes at schools, teachers highlight the importance of shouting “Please, the person in the red dress, help me!” instead of “Help me!” during an emergency situation in public. The only difference between the two sentences is that the former specified a person to help out of the many people present at the scene. Why does this difference carry so much importance? It is because it gets rid of bystander effect. Bystander effect, a concept in psychology, is a phenomenon where people are less likely to help those in need when others are present. Thus, when someone shouts “Help me!” in public, it is possible that no one will step up to provide appropriate help. The famous “Murder of Kitty Genovese” case alarmed the public of such concept. In 1964, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was on her way back home around 3 a.m. While she was walking towards her apartment, a man approached her and stabbed her with a knife and raped her. The attack took place for around 30 minutes, during which no one out of around 35 witnesses offered to help her even after hearing her shout for help. Eventually, she was found dead. To many, this may seem like an accident impossible to have happened, as a murder could have been stopped simply from someone coming down. So why does the bystander effect happen? There are various factors that contribute to this phenomenon. One would be ambiguity of the situation. For example, if a child is crying next to a shouting mother, one may not be sure if it is child abuse or child discipline. When others, also witnessing the same scene, do not show signs of helping the child, he may conclude that the scene is not so worrisome. Another is diffusion of responsibility, a phenomenon where a person is likely to feel less responsibility when others are present. People may believe it is not a part of their responsibility, and it should be someone else who should take up the responsibility. Moreover, group cohesiveness greatly affects the bystander effect as well. Group cohesiveness is the sense of belonging people feel towards a certain group. Since they feel like they belong, they are more likely to refrain from pursuing actions that is going to cause separation from the group. Using the same example of the child mentioned above, the person is not providing help because he doesn’t want to be seen as different from others who are not helping, whereas in the previous case, it was because he trusted others’ decision of the scene not being a case of child abuse. Such group cohesiveness is especially strong in Korea, where the importance of fitting into a crowd is highlighted culturally. Thus, it can be extremely difficult for many to act up, especially in public situations. However, because such characteristic is emphasized, and not seen as often, when one starts helping during an emergency, everyone is likely to join and take part. Such phenomenon was well shown during kindergarten bus accident in Busan last year. When a kindergarten bus, with 21 children, slipped and fell, around 10 citizens who were present at the scene rescued them while the police were dispatching. When one person approached to take a look at the bus, all the others present at the scene got off their cars to rescue children and comfort them. This example effectively displays how the courage of one person starting to help can lead to the prevention of further danger and group participation from people around. Thus, one should not shy away from offering help, even when there are others present. The courage of one single being may lead to a prohibition of various crimes, ranging from pickpocketing to murder

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