Dual effects of implicit bystanders: Inhibiting vs. facilitating helping behavior

Stephen M. Garcia, Kimberlee Weaver, John M. Darley, Bryan T. Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Encouraging consumers to engage in helpful behavior is a perennial task of marketers in non-profit and for-profit organizations. Recent research suggests that merely imagining the presence of others can lead to less helping behavior on a subsequent unrelated task (Garcia, S.M., Weaver, K.D., Moskowitz, G.B., and Darley, J.M. (2002). Crowded minds: The implicit bystander effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 843-853.). The present analysis uncovers the boundary conditions of this effect. Across four studies, we establish that the degree to which a group situation fosters public scrutiny is an important moderator. When group primes are paired with public scrutiny, their inhibitive effect on helping behavior diminishes, and helping behavior on a subsequent task tends to increase. The present research thus adds complexity to previous findings by suggesting that implicit bystanders can both decrease and increase helping behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-224
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Bystander apathy
  • Helping behavior
  • Implicit bystander effect
  • Public scrutiny
  • Social influence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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