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Violence in a closed circle

A study that followed violent behavior in the presence of bystanders examined whether bystanders, who witness the beginning of a violent conflict, have an active role in the event. on preventing violence in real time

brawl. From Wikishare.
brawl. From Wikishare.

Miriam Dishon-Berkowitz Galileo

Many studies have been published about violence and its consequences. However, very little is known about how aggressive behavior develops into physical violence, and in particular we do not know how to prevent the development of a violent incident.

The goal of the researchers Mark Levine, Paul Taylor and Rachel Best (Levine, Taylor & Best) in their article published in the journal Psychological Science, was to examine how the behavior of people watching from the sidelines at the beginning of violence, in real time, leads to the flaring of the violence or alternatively to its subsidence. In other words, Can people who are a "third party" and seemingly unrelated to the beginning of the violence bring about its decline?

Real time documentation
A major reason why very little is known about the attempt to calm violence in real time stems from the practical difficulty of documenting data on cases of violence in such time, since it is often impossible to know in advance when they will emerge; And even when it is possible to estimate that violence will occur, it is not always possible to document it. And here, in the hands of Levine, Taylor and Best fell an opportunity to document violence in real time due to the accepted policy in Great Britain to film with closed circuit cameras various sites in cities and towns throughout the country. It is estimated that there are over 4.2 million such cameras in the UK (one camera for every 14 people!)

For the current study, the researchers examined cases of violence recorded in the center of one of the cities in Great Britain. The research data included 42 videos of violent behavior in several public spaces intended for drinking alcohol in the city center (such as bars). Since the study only focused on violent behavior in the presence of spectators, who are a third party to the incident, only cases were analyzed where at least two people quarreled with each other and themselves, in the presence of at least two other people.

The beginning of a case was defined from the moment when behavior that suggests violence to come occurred (for example, aggressive hand movements or a loud argument that gets heated), and its end was defined from the moment the police arrived, or alternatively, the moment the incident ended without violence. Violent behavior was defined as hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking and dragging a person by their hair or clothes. Reconciliation or peacemaking behavior was defined as a gesture with open hand movements, blocking the attacker with the body of the spectator, holding the attacker and stopping him and separating the hawks from each other. According to these criteria, the behavior of each of the hawks and the onlookers was coded.

The level of violence during the incident was also coded: a low level of violence such as a slight push, or a high level of violence such as sustained violence or serious physical harm ending in serious injury or loss of consciousness.

People tend to intervene, apparently, out of a sense of justice. Illustration: shutterstock

viewers only?
The first question asked was: does the size of the group of spectators affect the development of an incident into violence? The analysis of the data shows that the presence of other people helped prevent an incident from turning into a violent struggle. Bystanders exhibited more peaceful behaviors than violent behaviors.

After it was proven that as the size of the group increases, so does the frequency of reconciliation actions (and not of escalation) among the bystanders, the second research question is asked: What sequence of behaviors of the bystanders will predict whether the incident will end in violence?

The analysis of the data shows that several behaviors of reconciliation by more than one observer increase the chance that the incident will end peacefully, than the same number of behaviors of peacemaking performed by only one observer. In other words, collective and coordinated preventive activity may lead to better results than the same actions carried out by a single person.

In conclusion, the research findings show that bystanders in incidents usually suppress rather than escalate the likelihood of violence developing, and the chance that they will do so increases the larger the group.

Why do bystanders tend to intervene at all, especially when they have no personal involvement in the incident, since the intervention could cost them personally? The answer to this is still not clear-cut, but probably, out of a sense of justice, which aims to punish those who deviate from the accepted norms of behavior, and to strengthen the norms of conflict resolution through non-violent means.

Miriam Dishon-Berkowitz is a psychologist, an organizational and marketing consultant and a lecturer at the Ono Academic College.

The full article was published in Galileo magazine, June 2011
To receive a copy of Galileo as a gift, click here

2 תגובות

  1. You just have to shout the police are coming loudly to make the brawlers stop and run away from the place.

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