The Bystander Effect by Catherine Sanderson

3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Turning a blind eye isn’t just a very British thing to do, it is a phenomenon that happens in every human culture around the world. There are famous cases where people have had terrible things happen to them, these have often been witnessed and yet those seeing it happen have either ignored the events deliberately or unconsciously.

So why do people seem to be good at recognising bad behaviour but bad at taking action against it? Pioneering psychologist Catherine Sanderson considers this in The Bystander Effect. She takes real-life examples, neuroscience and some of the classics behavioural studies on humans as well as the latest psychological studies to understand why we do this.

The consequences and risks of getting involved in disputes for a lot of people outweigh the benefits. Whilst the risk is low, tragedies do happen; Rick Best, who confronted a man who was shouting racist slurs at two Muslim women got stabbed for his efforts and died shortly after. With this in mind, Sanderson considers people that do intervene on a professional level, i.e. emergency services personnel and looks at the skills those people have. From that, she proposes practical strategies to apply to change the way that we react, by intervening or even just speaking out, to an unfolding situation.

I thought that it was a very interesting discussion of the realities of why some people help and good analysis as to why others really do not want to get involved. She has some very sensible policies that really need to be implemented in schools, partly because of bullying that can dominate a child’s life, but also because skills learnt there can have the biggest long term effect on people’s behaviour and reactions in life. Empathy needs to be taught too. I did think that is was very American centric which surprised me as the author is British!

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1 Comment

  1. Liz Dexter

    Will save this after skimming it as I have the book on my TBR, too!

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