Bystander Intervention during the 7/7 London bombings: an account

Bystander Intervention during the
7/7 London bombings: an account of
survivor's experiences
Chris Cocking, John Drury,
& Steve Reicher
Context of Bystander Effect
Social Identity approaches
July 7th 2005 and bystander intervention
Wider implications/ future developments?
Individual good- group bad?
Crowds initially seen as influencing over-reaction
and/or irrational behaviour (e.g. Le Bon, 1895)
But Latané & Darley (1968) suggest that crowds can
also encourage inhibition and inaction
Shift from view of crowd as active threat to passive
threat (Manning et al, in Press)
So group action still seen as worse than individual
Background to Bystander Effect
Diffusion of responsibility can happen in
emergencies with people delaying action with fatal
results e.g. experimental and field studies
Sime (1995) Time to escape= t¹ (time to start to
move)+ t² (time to pass through exits)
Latané & Darley (1968) suggest BE more likely, the
bigger the crowd
Garcia et al (2002) Implicit BE studiesdeindividuation within crowd
Development of Bystander Effect
More to BE than physical size of crowd
Role of emotional connection with victims
Helping/altruism more likely if empathy with victim
(e.g Batson 1991)
People more likely to help others they identify with,
(e.g. Cialdini et al 1997; Dovidio et al 1997)
Role of SCT- ‘it is not simply the presence or
absence of others that affects intervention, but who
those others are perceived to be’ (Levine &
Thompson 2004)
Context of research
ESRC funded project investigating crowd
behaviour in emergencies
Applying SIT/SCT models of crowd
Exhibiting our VR programme at Royal
Society on 7/7
Decided to gather data from survivors
7/7 Data collected
90 survivors
56 eye-witnesses
archive, questionnaire, e-mail, and interview
data (12 interviewed in person-6 male, 6
7/7: chronology of events
Bombs explode- brief silence in the darkness
Screams of fear and distress- passengers try to find
out what’s going on
Smoke & soot clear- attempts to help/ comfort
others, & escape- some delay because of fear that
tracks are live
Some passengers wait up to 45 mins for rescue, and
walk in orderly fashion along tracks when directed
Typical rush-hour on tube
Normal rush-hour behaviour, diffusion of
responsibility/bystander effect could be
expected because;
Atomised commuters on way to work
Minimal common identity
Individual injuries/casualties unlikely to
threaten group as a whole
Behaviour on 7/7
Helping & co-operation rather than selfish
Individual selfish acts rare and don’t spread
No evidence of mass panic
Only minor evidence for BE, despite minimal
existing emotional/affiliative ties amongst
Why no bystander effect on 7/7?
Clear, shared threat to group survival
Common identity emerges in response to this
shared threat
This emergent unity encourages helping and
intervention rather than apathy
Being in psychological crowd appears to
make helping more, not less likely
Bystander intervention on 7/7
Examples of co-operation
LB7: these guys helped me up on the platform and
then this woman came and asked if I was alright and
then held my hand as we walked up the platform
together. And um got the lift up to the tube station
and sat down for ages and ages and then this really
nice woman came and sat with me and put her coat
round me kind of looked after me
Female, early 20s, King’s Cross (in carriage bombed)
Common identity
CC: Can you remember when this strong sense of
unity first emerged?
LB7: I guess probably straight away and then it
probably grew a bit but as soon as it happened and
people were screaming there was another guy
saying calm down and people were talking to each
other straight away and obviously something huge
had happened and we just kind of instantly felt quite
together really.
Physical-psychological crowd
LB1: on a normal day on the tube you’re fighting for your own
seat, fighting for a decent spot to hold onto, and you don’t you
don’t let people through and fight to get on and off the train at
first. I think the whole atmosphere changed completely, it was
refreshing to see that the human beings that we are, were able
to change their behaviour to the situation in hand and normal
behaviour on the train at that time of the morning is fight, once
you get your seat you put your head in the Metro newspaper
and that’s it until you get off but people actually interacted with
each other and helped each other and were being considerate
Male, late 20s. Edgware Rd (witnessed blast)
Some minor diffusion of
LB1: there was one guy that was on the train very
shortly after the blast happened I don’t know how he
got a signal cos we were still in the tunnel but he
rang up work to cancel his meetings, and this lady
stood next to him said don’t you think you should dial
999 to get the emergency services round and he
said somebody else would have done that so there’s
no point me doing that’s about the only selfish act I
think, I don’t know if it was truly selfish as he was just
standing there with nothing else to do so he thought
he would phone his office
Lasting effects?
LB12: I’ve noticed that more maybe since, just the other day
somebody passed out half way on and off the tube and I pulled
the emergency cord which I did that day, and I was thinking oh I
am making a habit of this now. You know and there was about 4
or 5 people and we managed to get her back on the platform,
one of the guys was actually a doctor who had a look at her and
she had just passed out [] I mean contrary to what everyone
says about we all ignore each other. We do we you know it’s
early in the morning or late at night you’re tired you’re
knackered you just want to sit there and read your paper or
whatever but if something happens generally I would say that
most people on the tube would help
Female 50s Aldgate (on train bombed)
Enduring common identity
Common identity clearly very powerful in short-term,
and can overcome BE, but does it endure?
Unclear, but some evidence that it does and may
also provide mutual support or shield from stress/
trauma (e.g. KCU)
However possibility of maladaptive nature of such
Area we want to explore in more detail
Mutual support groups post 7/7
Less evidence for bystander effect in mass
Intervention does not necessarily decrease
as group size increases
Shared fate can create psychological unity
which encourages intervention/ co-operation
Is such unity enduring and/ or helpful in other
Batson (1991) The Altruism Question
Cialdini et al (1997) Journal of Personality and Social
Dovidio et al (1997) Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Garcia et al (2002) Journal of Personality and Social
Le Bon (1895) The Crowd
Latané & Darley (1968) Journal of Personality and Social
Levine & Thompson (2004) Journal of Social Psychology
Manning et al (in Press) American Psychologist
Sime (1995) Safety Science

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