The bystander effect is a psychological theory that states people are less likely to provide help in an emergency when others are present, according to Brittany Morris, MSW, LCSW, psychotherapist and executive clinic director at Thriveworks, a national mental health care company. It’s “people standing and watching something happen without stepping in, recording someone and not offering help, and leaving the situation altogether,” Morris says. And thanks to technology, the bystander effect has devolved over time. While video evidence is good to have in the wake of a crisis to hold people accountable, Morris says smartphones create a false sense of help, and bystanders who record often don’t actually step in to stop the bad thing from happening.

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