Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Bystander Effect

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion.  I have also discussed what predisposes some to help, like one's gender or the norms of social responsibility and reciprocity.  In a more spontaneous and situational way, the social norms of one's immediate surroundings can also influence willingness to help.

Act quickly in situations requiring help to create pro-social norms

The more people who are present when there is need for help, the less likely anyone is to help.  This happens because 1) people pay less attention to their surroundings in a group setting and 2) people look to others on how to act. There are ways to combat this effect. First, of course, if there are no other bystanders, a single person is more likely to notice the situation, not get hung up on the reactions of others, take responsibility, and help.  Secondly, in group situations, if one person acts, others are likely to follow suit.

Remember the paralyzing bystander effect and dare to break social norms and step in where others are not.  This is essentially the root of veganism:  We live in a society that is still bound by social norms of speciesism.  People look around to see what their friends, family, doctors, media, school, church, etc. are doing to determine appropriate behavior.  When that normalized behavior is encouraging society to ignore, hesitate, or refuse to help those nonhumans who suffer and die as a result of their inaction, it is then that vegans step in against great social pressure to refuse their support and to demand justice.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Break the spell of bystander effect by acting first


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