The Bystander Effect

Posted on November 29, 2010


The Bystander Effect

Ever wondered how we are able to walk right past people who are in need of help and not stop to lend a hand? The following lesson is based around a video on research into the Bystander Effect, a theory which suggests that a person in need is less likely to receive assistance when surrounded by a group than when they are in the presence of a single bystander. Here’s the video (unfortunately the first couple of words are missing)!

The lesson consists of a pairwork speaking activity, listening comprehension (the video) and freer conversation practice in groups. It is suitable for upper-intermediate to advanced students.

Step One : Pairwork Activity

  • Put your students in pairs (A + B) and give out the question cards below.
  • Tell them to take it turns to ask each other the questions
  • All the questions are examples of the second conditional. Whether you want to present, practice or simply draw your students’ attention to the grammar is your decision.

Step Two : The Bystander Effect Video

  • As an open-class lead-in to the video it might be a good idea to get your students’ opinions on questions 1 (Student A) and 6 (Student B).
  • Pre-teach some vocabulary before showing the video e.g. a bystander, a passer-by, to pass the buck, thoroughfare, to pretend to do sth, a crowd, to stand out from the crowd, to get involved, to intervene, to raise an eyebrow
  • Play the video once for gist and ask your students to explain what the research experiment shows according to the psychologists.
  • Play the video again and ask your students to take notes on what exactly happens during each of the three stages of the experiment (Peter | Ruth | Peter in suit and tie)

Step Three : Discussion in groups

  • Ask your students to discuss the questions below in groups of 3 or 4.

Optional Step Four : Music video

  • You might like to round off the lesson by showing your students this song by a group called The Beatles. I haven’t had time to come up with a task, but you might just like to sing along … or gap-fill it … Aaaaaargh! Up to you!

Hope you enjoy the lesson!

Posted in: Video Lessons