Helping behavior by bystanders: Contrasting individual vs social contextual factors

Alan Avi Kirschenbaum, Carmit Rapaport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The behavior of bystanders in emergencies and disasters have been examined for over 50 years. Such behaviors have been cited as contributing to saving lives in terms of providing first responder help until official emergency units can arrive. A number of reasons have been suggested for this type of behavior but most have focused on a broad segment of individual psychological decision making processes. Recent evidence suggest that a number of external factors for such bystander decisions, particularly disaster community based social context factors, are also important. We aim to test these competing arguments. Specifically, we examine alternative explanatory perspectives by focusing on self-efficacy as a proxy for the accepted individual psychological arguments and contrast it with potential bystander characteristics of the individual as well as potential contributing factors embedded in the social context of the disaster community. To do so, we utilize a random sampling of population from a field study of an urban community in Israel that experienced five years of continuous terror attacks. The results strongly suggest that self-efficacy, but more importantly external factors such as preparedness and having skills for intervention during emergencies along with gender best predict potential bystander helping behaviors. These results broaden our view of bystander behavior and open a window for enhancing this phenomenon as another element in disaster management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101816
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bystander behavior
  • Disaster
  • Psychological vs social context
  • Social networks
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Safety Research
  • Geology


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