Vidi project: Conflicts, Violence and Bystanders in Action

Summary: Imagine witnessing an armed robbery while shopping, or a street fight when walking home. What would you do? Would you intervene? And what would happen if you did? Although half a century of experimental studies have found bystanders to be less likely to intervene when others are present, recent meta-analytical evidence questions the ecological validity of these studies. The actions of bystanders in real-life violence differ from non-violent experimental settings. The question is in what ways.

This project will carry out a ‘reality check’ on extant bystander studies by examining what bystanders do in real-life violent situations, how their behaviour can be explained, and the effects of their actions on the harm and injury of all parties present. I draw on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) recordings of bystander actions in 600 potentially violent conflicts. The spread of high quality camera surveillance has made these types of data available to scientists, and I will innovatively apply and further develop an ethological method for the systematic and detailed analysis of real-life observations that will help future generations of researchers to study human behaviour with footage from CCTV cameras.

The study promises to be a game changer for bystander studies by: (1) measuring in detail what bystanders do in real-life conflicts; (2) explaining variations in their actions; and (3) identifying the benign and harmful consequences of bystander actions for themselves and others. It will further our understanding of violence by providing detailed insight into how conflicts unfold and are managed in public spaces, without relying on notoriously biased and unreliable self-report studies. Bystanders can play a crucial role in the prevention of violence in public spaces as they are present when the police are absent. This project will result in the development of a “First Aid Guide” for bystanders.

Project PI: Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard

Bystander agency and apathy

Summary: The purpose of this project is to learn under what conditions bystanders intervene in violent assaults in real-life violence. Through access to CCTV footage of severe violent assaults registered by the police in Denmark, we systematically observe and classify bystander intervention in detail, and analyze the conditions that bring bystanders into agency or apathy.

Funded by: Independent Research Fund Denmark (PI Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard)

Researchers: Lasse Suonperä Liebst (postdoc), Richard Philpot (postdoc), Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard (associate professor)

Bystander Actions in Violence  

Summary: The purpose of this project is to investigate the interactional dynamics of third-party behavior in violent situations. While previous research on third-parties has mainly focused on how individual characteristics (e.g., age and gender) or situational characteristics (e.g., number of people present) influence intervention, this project investigates how actions within conflicts shape the following (re)actions and thereby the trajectory to violence. In doing so, we break each conflict down into its constituent behavioral acts and observe how these basic building blocks of conflicts develop over time.

Funded by: The Netherlands Scientific Organization (NWO) (PI Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard)

Researchers: Peter Ejbye-Ernst (PhD candidate), Wim Bernasco (promotor), Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard (promotor), Lasse Suonperä Liebst (mentor)

Prevention of Aggression in Conflicts in Public Transport

Summary: Bus conductors are often victims of physical or psychological violence at work from displeased passengers. Research shows that behavioral patterns in conflict situations are vital to determine if a conflict evolves violently, and so, bus conductors can minimize the risk of victimization at work by avoiding certain behavior. By analyzing body camera video footage of conflicts from the conductors’ everyday work life, this project aims to develop evidence-based knowledge about how conflicts emerge and evolve between conductors and passengers in public transport. The results of the project are used to formulate specific recommendations about how bus conductors can act in order to avoid victimization at work.

Funded by: Movia (PI Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard)

Researchers: Camilla Bank Friis (research assistant), Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard (associate professor), Lasse Suonperä Liebst (postdoc), Richard Philpot (postdoc)

Project period: January 2018 to October 2018

Reduction of threats and violence through systematic analysis of conflict behavior among prison officers and ticket controllers

Summary: Can prison officers avoid exposure to violence during a conflict with an inmate, if they sit down next to them? Does a conflict de-escalate if ticket controllers touch the passengers on their arm when they issue fines? This project provides answers to these and related issues of behavior in conflict situations between citizens and prison officers and ticket controllers. The purpose of the project is to improve the psychosocial working environment for prison officers and ticket controllers by systematically identifying the behavioral patterns of employees that can prevent disputes and conflicts with citizens to develop into threats and violence. New research, based on analyzes of video-recorded conflict situations, shows that violence can be minimized through certain behavioral patterns. This project is based on this research, and will in a systematic quantitative manner analyze video recordings of 150 conflict situations per group with the following aims:

  1. Identify the types of situations with the citizens that the employees must pay special attention to because they involve an increased risk of escalating violence against employees.
  2. Identify the behaviors of the employee who increase and reduce the risk of being exposed to violence.
  3. Developing, based on the results of the project, professional-specific 'first aid funds' that contain conflict management tools with concrete examples of appropriate and inappropriate conflict behavior.

The results of the project contribute to occupational health research with knowledge about what behavior is escalating and escalating in concrete conflicts. This knowledge will be transformed into recommendations and disseminated through branch-specific ‘first aid kits’ that contain conflict management tools with concrete examples of appropriate and inappropriate conflict behavior for prison officers and ticket controllers.

Funded by: The Danish Labor Market Research Fund (PI Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard)

Researchers: Camilla Bank Friis (research assistant), PhD Lasse Suonperä Liebst (postdoc), Richard Philpot (postdoc), Lars Peter Sønderbo Andersen (senior researcher), Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard (associate professor)

Project period: 2018-2021

Robbery in the Spotlight: Effect of victim resistance and bystander behavior on violence during robberies

Summary: The proposed research aims at challenging the methodological problems of victim surveys and offender surveys by analyzing CCTV camera recordings of robberies. We chose to study robberies because this crime is the main cause of fear of crime in the public and because more recorded footage is available compared to for example from assault and rape. Camera recordings offer the possibility to objectively measure and analyze the behavior of all those involved in the situation. The recordings make it possible to objectively determine how different forms of (non-) verbal behavior play a role as robberies unfold. The research aims at determining which forms of victim and bystander behavior that (1) prevent offenders from successfully carrying out the robbery and (2) prevent victims and bystanders from being exposed to physical violence.

Funded by: Police and Science Grant Scheme (PI Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard)

Period: 2014-2015

Violence in the Street, Violence of the Street—Street Violence in a Situational Perspective

Summary: The situational process of street violence has been neglected in sociological research, which traditionally has focused on the social background of violent individuals. In addressing this dearth of research, the project aimed at examining the situational conditions and processes of street violence, including the significance of social emotions, place dynamics, and bystander behavior. Empirically, the project analyzed police case files and video surveillance footage.  Funded by: Velux Foundation

Researchers: PhD Poul Poder (associate professor, PI), Lasse Suonperä Liebst (postdoc, Co-PI), Marie B. Heinskou (postdoc, Co-PI), Charlotte Bloch (associate professor)