It is not uncommon in life for people to witness an emergency or road accident, but make no attempt to help the victims. In psychology, this phenomenon is called the “Witness effect”, “Eyewitness effect”, “Genovese syndrome”. However, when one person is found and takes decisive action to rescue him, others join him. And this is already the “Penguin effect”.
The Eyewitness Effect
It consists in the fact that the crowd of witnesses in an extreme situation seems to freeze, and no one present takes any action to help the person who has been hurt. At the same time, the more people there are, the less likely it is that any of them will help.
An example of the “Eyewitness effect” is a case that happened to Kitty Genovese in 1964. A man named Winston Moseley stabbed the girl twice in the back in the street. Her neighbors could hear her screams, but none of them reacted appropriately to the situation. Moseley then returned to the scene of the crime and completed it by striking several more times.
The crime as a whole lasted half an hour. The police found that at least ten people witnessed some of the episodes. It was not until minutes after the attack that one witness reported it to authorities. Kitty Genovese died on the way to the hospital.
The Penguin Effect
Penguins living in the harsh conditions of Antarctica have no natural enemies on land. They perceive people as penguins, albeit a little strange, in their opinion. These flightless birds feel perfectly well in the water. However, in the water they can become prey for seals, sea lions, sea leopards, sharks and orcas.
In all likelihood, this is why penguins are afraid to dive into the water. Before doing so, they approach the shore in small groups and stop.
None of them wants to be the first to enter the sea. The waiting procedure can last up to half an hour. But in the end there is a bird who, having plucked up courage, rushes into the water, and then the others follow. This is called the “penguin effect”, the effect of which can also be observed in human society.
How to overcome the indifference of the crowd?
Psychologists have a term “pluralistic ignorance”. This is the name of a peculiarity of human behavior in a crowd.
Let’s imagine, for example, the following situation: in broad daylight on a crowded street, someone gets sick. But people pass by, no one offers to help, even though it is quite obvious that the person in distress needs it urgently. Why don’t people respond and indifferently turn away?
Psychologists have done studies and found that people behave indifferently if they are not sure that the incident they are observing is really dangerous. This is especially the case when other strangers behave the same way, without showing concern. This is explained by the fact that in public we want to look calm, knowledgeable and polite, so we are often afraid of making a mistake and being in a ridiculous situation. Therefore, most people prefer to behave even in an extraordinary situation just like the majority, like everyone else around them.
This explains the fact that it is most difficult to get help where there are large crowds of people: in the street, in a crowd, in an apartment building. Here people mostly behave as passive observers. Such are the laws of the crowd. But in this case, how should the person who needs help act?
The only way to get help in such a situation is to ask for it. And the request must be as specific as possible. Moaning, complaining, and desperate appeals to the crowd will have no effect. But if you address a specific person with a specific request, help is likely to follow.
The results of numerous studies on this topic have allowed psychologists to create an algorithm of actions for the person who needs help. First of all, it is necessary to single out a certain person from the crowd, look at him and address him, for example: “The woman in the blue coat, I need your help. Please call an ambulance!”
This phrase alone can dispel doubts about the situation, and the person approached for help will respond. Once in the position of the rescuer, one stops doubting one’s involvement and begins to act quickly.