Teaching Your Child Not to Be a Bystander
By Pam Henderson
I finally found a term that describes the situation when an individual leaves the toilet paper roll empty, ignores the cats’ depleted food dish and refuses to discard the box after eating the final cracker. It’s “diffusion of responsibility.” This occurs when one thinks that someone else will take care of the problem, and therefore doesn’t personally address it.
I came across this term when I was trying to understand what causes some people to act, and some people to stand by. My husband recently slid on the ice at a gas station, and no one came to help. He wasn’t hurt; still, I couldn’t believe that not a soul came over to see if he was okay.
McCombs School of Business at Texas writes “Diffusion of responsibility occurs when people who need to make a decision wait for someone else to act instead. The more people involved, the more likely it is that each person will do nothing, believing someone else from the group will probably respond. Diffusion of responsibility makes people feel less pressure to act because they believe, correctly or incorrectly, that someone else will do so. And, when we don’t feel responsible for a situation, we feel less guilty when we do nothing to help.” The writers go on to say, “So, in this way, diffusion of responsibility keeps us from paying attention to our own conscience.”