It’s Friday night, you’re sipping some Don Julio Real, and you’re hitting it off with the a cute girl from accounts receivable—and you see the beginnings of a scuffle erupting at the end of the bar. Do you try and break it up?
According to research from Pennsylvania State University, someone will try and break up a bar room scrap two-thirds of the time. Michael Parks, author of the study, trained dozens of people to monitor the nightlife in bars and clubs in Toronto, watch for “aggressive incidents”, and make observations. “Aggressive incidents” was defined pretty broadly, including verbal assault, unwanted contact, and actual fighting. Over the course of 503 nights in 87 bars and clubs, observers recorded 860 “aggressive incidents”.
In one-third of these incidents, bystanders intervened to break it up. Most of the time—to the tune of 80%—those bystanders were men.
More disappointingly, the most frequent kind of aggression, consisting of men harassing women, was the least likely to see any intervention (where was this study done, the Brunnie?).
Several factors increased the likelihood of a bystander stepping in: if the aggression was mutual, serious, between people who were drunk, and between two men, making the ultimate case for intervention two drunk guys wailing on each other.
It’s possible that in situations that are the most dangerous, but Parks’ observers did not ask anyone who intervened why they did so.