The Influence of Bystanders in Subsequent Bullying Behavior
Aggression that is targeted towards an individual or a group of individuals who is at a disadvantage to respond is known by several terms in the literature, including bullying, harassment, and mobbing. There has been much interest in this sort of targeted aggression among school-aged children and, therefore, a large body of literature on the topic exists. In adult populations, especially in workplace environments, much research has focused on the respective roles of the victim and bully in this adverse social dynamic, with less information available on the role of the bystander, which has emerged as an important part of the dynamic. The purpose of this study was to investigate secondary bystander behaviors towards a victim, bystander, or aggressor through a reaction-time task that followed an episode of aggression in which the type of aggression and response of the primary bystander was manipulated. Significant results were not found in levels of aggressive or prosocial responding due to the bystander intervention, but due to the opponent being played in the task. It is proposed that circumstances of aggression are extremely ambiguous, creating misinterpretation and often leaving aggression unchallenged, which is interpreted by the aggressor as support. Future research and implications are discussed.