2020.01.22 Getting involved

Danes are infamous for not minding their own business.

We have opinions on all sorts of things and we don't mind voicing said opinions - this blog being just one case in point. Employees will openly disagree with their bosses. We are usually not afraid of telling a co-passenger to take his dirty sneakers down from the train seat unless said passenger looks overly menacing.

Researchers have coined the term bystander effect for the problem that people generally don't get involved if there are other people present who don't get involved either.

This is the opposite.

It would be easy to deduct that we are a nation of slightly aggressive busy bodies.

You can imagine my delight when I stumbled over a journal article on what kinds of people would be most prone to getting involved if perfect strangers committed civic misbehaviors.

The referenced article covers several studies so it is long and filed with statistics. The premises were to explore if people who got involved were indeed striving for putting others down or if their motivations were to protect "the commons". Here is the take away:

  • "Individuals who intervene when witnessing an uncivil/immoral behaviour are generally those who vote in national elections, can be relied upon, and do not cheat with their taxes... They also seem to be well‐balanced: They feel understood, respected, and trusted by their colleagues and fellow students...; they try harder, push themselves more, and give up less quickly than their peers...; they solve their own problems, decide what has to be done, and do not feel controlled by others...; and they are independent, active, competitive, self‐confident, and persistent, and they make decisions easily and stay calm under pressure..."

If such are the defining characteristics of busy bodies, I guess we are not all that bad. Annoying, but with good intent - and hopefully cleaner train seats.

(The research is done in France and Austria and no Danes were involved in production of this research.)