Anticipation of future interaction and the bystander effect

Jody Gottlieb, Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Previous research suggests that people are slower to offer help in an emergency when there are other witnesses than when there are not. This finding has come to be known as the bystander effect. In research that has demonstrated this effect, however, the other witnesses were invariably anonymous others who had no relationship with the subject and with whom the subject probably did not expect to interact again. The present research examined the hypothesis that the expectation of participating in subsequent face-to-face interaction with other bystanders would cause the bystander effect to be minimized. Female college students were led to believe either that they would have no personal contact with the other participants in an ostensible group discussion, or that the participants would be involved in a later face-to-face discussion session. Each subject then participated in what she believed to be an anonymous discussion via intercoms, involving either one person or five persons beside herself. During this period, an ostensible co-subject experienced a choking fit. Help was offered more quickly among subjects who expected future interaction than among those who did not. In the no future interaction condition, latencies to help were longer in six-member than in two-member groups, but the comparable difference, although in the same direction, was not reliable among subjects who expected interaction. Presence of male "co-subjects" in an exploratory condition failed to inhibit helping. Discussion centers on the broader implications of the findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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