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hegemonicon comments on Bystander Apathy - Less Wrong

25 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 13 April 2009 01:26AM

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Comment author: [deleted] 13 April 2009 07:37:29PM 4 points [-]

It actually seems like a rather elegant and efficient way of analyzing a situation, that just happens to backfire in some cases. Instead of trying to understand exactly what is going on, we just try to understand what everyone else understands. I don't have to bother trying to figure out why something is happening and the appropriate response, I just have to do what everyone else is doing. It's probably one of many adaptations we have for acting as a group, and I'd imagine its very effective most of the time.

Perhaps it's so effective that we (subconsciously) rely on it more than other methods of analysis, so it can overrule what might otherwise be a strong reaction to something. So if there's smoke coming from under the door but everyone else doesn't seem to mind, we don't say anything.

Comment author: byrnema 14 April 2009 05:04:40AM *  0 points [-]

It's elegant, efficient and I would also add: socially polite. If everyone else knows what is going on, you don't need to add to the noise by making them explain it to you. For example, if the homeless person was trying to get some sleep, and not having a heart attack, it would be annoying if people kept waking him up to check on him. If you look around, maybe somebody knows which case it is.

Also I think performance anxiety is important. It's not just shyness -- I think a sense of inferiority is correct. I don't know how to do the Heimlich! And if I pull over, am I pulling over in the right spot or will I be in the way of the emergency vehicles? This isn't just rationalization -- I would be greatly relieved to find an unobtrusive place to park.