Conditions on a hen or stag party are perfect for the bystander effect to kick in. Act to overcome it.

The wedding season may be upon us but before anyone says “I do”, there’s one last party to be had. It’s stag and hen party time.

Hopefully you’ll have a first-aid-free evening. And even if something does go wrong, you’re sure you’ll spring to the aid of anyone who needs it.

Right? Maybe not.

There’s a phenomenon called the bystander effect taking hold of party-goers across the UK.

Would you stand by or step in? Take the quiz to find out.

Question one

Cocktails on a hen party

Your night is starting with drinks in a swanky bar in town. You’re walking down the high street with the rest of your party – but you’re running late. If you arrive late, you’ll lose the reservation.

As you pass a bus stop you see a man with a heavy nosebleed. Did he get in a fight? You don’t know. You’ve got three minutes to get to the venue.

Do you:

A) Hurry along to the venue. There are plenty of other people around who could help the man with the bleeding nose. Plus you don’t know how he got it – best not to get involved.

B) Stop and offer to help the man. You encourage him to tilt his head forward and pinch his nose, while asking him what happened in case he has any other injuries.

How did you do?

We’d all like to say we picked answer B – even if we weren’t sure that was the correct first aid technique (it is).

But in real life many of us will pick A. This is what is known as the bystander effect – and it’s quite common.

The bystander effect relates to the reluctance of bystanders to intervene in an emergency, especially when a person appears to be in distress.

It happens for many reasons and results in a person not getting the immediate attention they need. This can have devastating consequences.

But don’t despair. The good news is just by taking this short quiz you are increasing your chances of having the confidence to act in a first aid crisis. So read on.

According to bystander theory, people are less likely to help someone in a first aid emergency if:

  • They are in a hurry.
  • They are in an urban setting.
  • There are lots of people around.

Just like in the scenario above.

Overcome the bystander effect: Even if you’re in a hurry, you can quickly ask someone if they’re OK and call for help if need be. Plus if you stop and go to help someone in need then other people will be more likely to follow your lead and offer help as well.

Question two

Curry on a night out

It’s time to eat and you’ve chosen one of the best Indian restaurants in town. Your party can be easily spotted in your matching floral garlands. Fancy dress is almost compulsory for brides and grooms to-be.

Suddenly on the other side of the restaurant, an old man stumbles off his seat. It looks like he’s struggling to breathe. He’s clutching at his throat and his eyes are wide.

Do you:

A) Look around for someone to help. You think the man is choking. You hope someone else will come to his aid soon – his face is turning purple.

B) Approach the man and hit him firmly on his back between the shoulder blades. You think he has food stuck in his throat and know that back blows may help dislodge it.

How did you do?

Kudos if you picked B. If you picked A, the bystander effect has kicked in again – but this time for different reasons.

According to bystander theory, people are less likely to help someone in a first aid emergency if:

  • They don’t relate to the victim – perhaps because they’re not the same age or ethnicity, or not dressed in the same way.

Just like in the scenario above.

How to overcome the bystander effect: Imagine if that man was your dad or uncle – you’d hope someone would step forward to help him, regardless of age, colour or clothing. Even if you’re not sure what to do, step forward and you’ll be more likely to trigger a chain reaction that gets a person in distress the help they need.

Step in

We all like to think we’d act a certain way in a first aid crisis. But as this quiz shows, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Now that you know about the bystander effect, you are now more likely to recognise when it’s happening and if someone isn’t getting the help they need.

If you are heading to a hen or stag party soon, enjoy it. And if you come across a first aid emergency, remember the impact the bystander effect can have and act to overcome it.

Want to do more?

Building your first aid skills and knowledge will also help you feel more confident.

Images from iStock