“Bad things happen [be]cause good people do nothing.” A study on how residents of Athlone and it's suburbs view their roles as bystanders

Master Thesis


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Bystander behaviour in Social psychology and criminology has often been discussed in terms of classic theory (as the bystander effect), bystander intervention for the purpose of crime prevention, situational factors impacting intervention or whether bystanders actually intervene. Other studies have looked at individual motivations for intervention, for example altruism/egoism. This study looks at how bystanders understand intervention and ultimately how they might perceive their roles as bystanders in one community in Cape Town – the broader Athlone area in the Cape Flats. Using a survey (n=60), carried out with both pen and paper and online modes of administration, the study found that bystanders in the Athlone not only often engage in prosocial intervening behaviour, but their view themselves fitting between an altruistic up keeper of social norms and an egoist actively negotiating the risks involved with intervening because there is concern for their own safety. The study also finds that regardless of the controversial position law enforcement and police hold in South Africa, many members of the Athlone community would rely on them when intervention is required.