The findings of a recent survey have revealed that older people in danger are more likely than anyone else to be helped by a stranger. The survey which was conducted for a UK charity, found that 91% of respondents would help an unknown older person in need.
Chivalry is clearly still alive and well, as 85% responded that they would offer help to a woman who seemed to be in danger. The same number of people would assist a child in danger.
However, a younger male alone would be least likely to attract help, with just 56% willing to offer assistance to a young man on his own. Pets would fare considerably better than young men, as 79% would help them.
The survey also asked people to give reasons why they would not offer help to others in danger. The main answers given were not knowing how to help (36%) and being concerned for their own personal safety (46%).
Some people feel uncomfortable in this type of situation and some will even pretend to be otherwise occupied if they see someone they don’t know in danger. 15% of people aged between 18 and 24 said that they would pretend to be busy using their mobile phone if they saw a stranger in a crisis. Another reason given for not helping was that the person would assume that someone else would help.
As far back as the 1960s researchers began to explore something known as the "bystander effect". Essentially research has demonstrated that people are less likely to help a stranger if there are many other people around. If a person is on their own and sees a stranger in need, he or she is significantly more likely to help than when there are others around.
The main reason for this seems to be that when others are present, it is unclear who should assume responsibility for offering assistance. However, the higher the level of danger the stranger is in, the less the bystander effect comes into play.
Research has also shown that people are more likely to give help if the person in need explains why they need help. Ambiguity as to whether someone really is in need of help has also been shown to significantly reduce the likelihood of assistance being offered.
In a culture where children are taught from a very young age that for their own safety they should not speak to strangers, it is perhaps not surprising that some people in adulthood are reluctant to help a stranger. However, it is reassuring to know that the more vulnerable sectors of society, older people, women and children, would be highly likely to get help if the need arose.