The Bystander Effect

Posted on November 29, 2010

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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