A few years ago I was at my uncle’s house celebrating my cousin’s birthday with the rest of our family. My cousins and I decided to go for a swim in the pool and after having spent a fair amount of time inside, we stepped out and sat a table right next to it. We were having a good time, just catching up and talking nonsense, until one of them pointed out that our younger cousin, Danny, was drowning. I remember observing the scene. There was a man, who I assumed was one of my Uncle’s friends, watching this all happen, just as we were. And then, before I knew it, one of my older cousins, Julian, had jumped in and was swimming towards Danny. Julian was able to get Danny out and then we ran to tell our aunt what had happened.

There were about 10 people by the pool that day, and of those 10 there were 9 of us who played right into the bystander effect. This concept refers to the idea the more people there are present in the event in the emergency, the less likely any one of them is to help. I would like to tell myself that if Julian hadn’t dived in to save Danny, I would have done it, but to be honest, I don’t know. The reading suggested that witnesses feel a diffusion of responsibility when others are present, because they assume that someone else will take initiative and do something about the issue at hand. I think that those of us who waited to help, experienced that. While I hate to say this, I might not have decided to take initiative that day because I assumed someone else would do it.

If I had been aware of the bystander effect that day, I would have recognized how much more important it was that I take immediate action, because others are susceptible to not doing so. I think that no matter what, someone would have taken it upon themselves to help Danny, because this was an emergency that involved family. If this were to take place at a public pool, there was no lifeguard in sight, and someone was drowning, I think that the outcome for the individual at risk is capable of becoming a lot more dangerous.


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