The bystander effect — that people decreasingly help others as the number of passersby increases — entered our lexicon in the 1960s following social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané's groundbreaking lab demonstrations.
Their experiments gave way to so-called pluralistic ignorance, when people consider others’ reactions in crises before determining how to proceed or deciding whether it’s important to help someone in need.
But enough jargon. Let’s focus on something we all know about: plain old ignorance.
That, apparently, was on display recently when a passing motorist criticized Crestview girls who just wanted help for their sister, whose sudden seizure scared the family.
Jeremy Fouquet told reporter Brian Hughes that he pumped his daughter Elizabeth’s chest while his other daughters tried to stop motorists on Pearl Street for help.
Sure, several drivers steered past the desperate family and demonstrated the bystander effect, that pluralistic ignorance.
However, one driver veered into plain old ignorant territory, according to witness’ accounts.
“This blonde lady in an SUV stopped and said we were stupid for trying to flag down cars,” Alissa Fouquet, 9, said.
Our readers were shocked when they read that.
They cast shame on the mysterious woman; some expressed hope that she would see the article and realize the gravity of her misjudgment.
After all, someone could have died.
“I don’t see how you can misinterpret a panicked father pumping his baby’s chest,” Eboni Smith wrote on our Facebook page after saying she’d hoped to give the woman the benefit of the doubt.
Blessedly, college students Tahnee Burnette, Carissa Phillips and Lexi Burnette pulled into the Fouquets’ driveway and immediately took father and daughter to North Okaloosa Medical Center.
Their simple, selfless action undoubtedly saved Elizabeth’s life.
Community requires fighting the bystander effect, going with your gut and helping others.
In this case, doing those things saved a life.
Community’s enemy is misunderstanding, ignorance and ridicule.
In this case, these things spelled imminent death.
If you encounter the chance to help, consider the former option.
Email Crestview News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni, firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet him @cnbeditor.