41 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2008
Date Written: November 9, 2008
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.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Taylor, Paul A. and Levine, Mark and Best, Rachel, Intra-Group Regulation of Violence: Bystanders and the 'De'-Escalation of Violence (November 9, 2008). IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1298601 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1298601