WONCO-A Podcast - Bystander Behaviour

By The Cove May 15, 2019

In this brief podcast Warrant Officer Michael Coggan from WONCO-A, reminds us that in order to maintain our standards we must have the moral courage to correct faults, even if they are minor, and not let ourselves become victims of bystander behaviour (and the belief that somebody else will take action) - we must develop a bias for action.



About bystander behaviour

The development of the theory of the ‘bystander effect’ began following the rape and murder of Catherine (Kitty) Genovese in 1964 New York. According to Cook[1] , this occurrence brought about the need for research on the bystander effect. The case involved the stabbing death of Kitty in front of her apartment building in the presence of about 38 witnesses. The attack lasted approximately 40 minutes and during this time none of the witnesses took any significant action to save her.

It was after the attack and subsequent high profile murder trial that Latane and Darley[2] proposed their renowned process model associated with giving or providing assistance (Process Model of Help-Giving). The model dictates that a spectator who witnesses a crisis occurrence ought to progress through some sequential steps before intervening in any way.

In Kitty’s case, Latane and Darley stated that the witnesses involved failed to intervene since there were too many of them present at the scene. Thus, the bystander effect is based on the belief that people are usually less willing to intervene in situations where more other passive individuals are present.


[1] Cook, K., 2014, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America. New York: WW Norton & Company.

[2] .Latané, B; Darley, J.M. (1968). "Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.




The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


Good points raised here, by WO2 Coggan and the WONCO Team: The 'bystander effect' to me is about all of us knowing when to intervene and stop poor behaviour occurring at any time, not just by being next to our people when they are their most vulnerable and stepping in, but having the courage to report it to the chain of command for follow up action. Most importantly understand the difference between 'Mistake and Misconduct', Especially if the incident contravenes our Army values. Moral Courage as mentioned by WO2 Goggan is the crux of it all here. Well done! I would love to raise the issue of 'Fault Correction'. This is slightly easier to define. It's plain and simple, see a fault - correct it. 'It's professional - not personal'. If NCO's can separate the two in their mind it becomes very easy to do. Just understand the many methods of doing it in order to be effective. WO1 Dave Galloway, RSM FORCOMD.

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