29. Bystander Eageration…
After being made redundant the other week, I was offered some work by a friend who runs a market stall selling Christmas gifts. It’s chilly work but my silly dance moves to keep warm have amused the customers, and their weird behaviour has kept me very interested in them.
Weirdly, the less potential customers at the stall, the less likely those people are to buy something. But if a small crowd develops, then that will invariably grow to a bigger crowd, and as soon as that happens the majority of people will buy something.
It’s as if when we are in a crowd of people we don’t know, we somehow take our cue from others. Like a mad reverse of Bystander Apathy into ‘Bystander Eageration’ (well it could be a real word, couldn’t it?).
This one in particular floats my boat:
In this experiment two girls started playing Frisbee in a waiting room at Grand Central Station in New York. When the Frisbee was thrown to a confederate, she either joined in enthusiastically or accused the girls of being childish and acting dangerously, and promptly kicked the Frisbee back.
If the confederate responded negatively, none of the other people in the waiting room joined in throwing the Frisbee, but if she did join in, so did 86% of the other people present. Indeed in the latter situation people wandered over from other parts of the waiting room to join in. *
So, if we are just subconsciously looking for other cues whether it to buy something from a market stall or join in a game of Frisbee, what would happen if a few individuals started singing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ as they waited for their train on London Bridge concourse?
* I found the above extract in ‘Mind Watching’ by Hans and Michael Eynsynck (father and son duo, Old Pa Eynsynck being a pin-up for any psychology student over the last 50 years). It’s great read for non-psychologists like me.
By Liz Akers