According to the most recent research on the subject, the Philadelphia incident appears to be the exception, not the rule. A 2019 multinational study found that at least one bystander (but usually more) will actually intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.
The bystander effect is real in the sense that people are less likely to intervene if there are other people around than if they are the lone bystander. But that doesn’t mean that more people equals less intervention. The 2019 study by psychologist Richard Philpot and his four co-authors found the opposite, in fact—the more people who witnessed a conflict, the greater the likelihood that someone would step in.
The study, which included observations of video footage from real-life public conflicts in the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom, found that one or more witnesses made a prosocial intervention in 90.7% of public conflicts, with an average of 3.8 witnesses intervening each time.
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