Does Danger Level Affect Bystander Intervention in Real-Life Conflicts? Evidence From CCTV Footage

Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard*, Lasse Suonperä Liebst, Richard Philpot, Mark Levine, Wim Bernasco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In real-life violence, bystanders can take an active role in de-escalating conflict and helping others. Recent meta-analytical evidence of experimental studies suggests that elevated danger levels in conflicts facilitate bystander intervention. However, this finding may lack ecological validity because ethical concerns prohibit exposing participants to potentially harmful situations. Using an ecologically valid method, based on an analysis of 80 interpersonal conflicts unobtrusively recorded by public surveillance cameras, the present study confirms that danger is positively associated with bystander intervention. In the presence of danger, bystanders were 19 times more likely to intervene than in the absence of danger. It extends this knowledge by discovering that incremental changes in the severity level of the danger (low, medium, and high), however, were not associated with bystander intervention. These findings confirm the importance of further investigating the role of danger for bystander intervention, in larger samples, and involving multiple types of real-life emergencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-802
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF–6109-00210) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO VI.Vidi.195.083).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • aggression
  • bystander intervention
  • danger
  • emergency
  • helping behavior
  • systematic video observation
  • violence


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