If you are ever in need of emergency aid, you better hope that there are NOT a lot of people around. In fact, you would have a better chance of survival if a single bystander, rather than a crowd, were present.

Why? Because responsibility is diffused as the number of observers increases. Each individual assumes that someone else will step in to help. Countless real life examples exist and studies back this up. It is known as the “bystander effect.”

The bystander effect is powerful. As one study illustrates, a person who appeared to be having a seizure received help 85% of the time when there was a single bystander but only 31% of the time when there were multiple bystanders. It is not that people in groups are callous or cold, they just think someone else will take action.

Knowing this can be the difference between life and death. If you ever find yourself requiring emergency aid in the midst of a crowd, do the following:

Isolate one individual from the crowd. Stare, speak, and point directly at that person and no one else: “You, sir, in the blue jacket, I need help. Call an ambulance.”

The idea is to pick out one person from the crowd and assign a task to them. Otherwise everyone else in the crowd may assume that someone else should help, will help or has helped.

So much for safety in numbers.