Intra-Group Regulation of Violence: Bystanders and the 'De'-Escalation of Violence
Paul A. Taylor
November 9, 2008
IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper
Theories of violence have traditionally predicted that bystanders are less likely to intervene when in the presence of others than when alone. We re-examine this prediction using data from 42 episodes of public violence in "night-time economy" spaces in the United Kingdom, as captured on CCTV cameras. The behaviors of protagonists and bystanders were coded as either escalating or de-escalating acts, and the resulting interaction sequences were examined using state-transition diagrams. Analyses revealed that bystanders play a key role in shaping the trajectory of violence. They contributed more de-escalating than escalating behaviors; and their de-escalating behavior became more rather than less prevalent with more bystanders. This appeared to result from two dynamics: i) bystander interventions usually begin with a de-escalating act towards the target rather than the instigator; and ii) the third bystander act in the sequence was most likely to determine the trajectory of the violence. We conclude with some speculations about the intra-group regulation of violence, and highlight bystanders as an important resource for developing violence reduction initiatives.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41working papers series
Date posted: December 15, 2008
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