The rewards we gain from curbing bullying

Assisting a person being subjected to bullying can result in an individual experiencing psychological rewards, new research has suggested. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found helping a victim is the evolutionary right thing to do.

Sergey Gavrilets, Associate Director for Scientific Activities at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and a Professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, observed people are often tempted to speak up when they witness bullying.

Professor Gavrilets explained this course of action can benefit not only the victim and the individual stepping in, but is also viewed as the correct approach from a societal point of view.

He stated: "As such, I'd speculate that this is also a psychologically rewarding thing to do in spite of the risks potentially involved."

It was demonstrated that while intervening in this way could backfire, the advantages of doing so pays off in the long run.

Chartered Psychologist Peter Sharp says:

"This finding is entirely consistent with the work pioneered in Sweden by Anatol Pikas and known as the 'method of shared concern' – evaluation shows that better outcomes for victims and better shift in behaviour of bullies are achieved by involving people in being disinhibited to say what they think and feel in a safe and managed setting. So encouraging witnesses to contribute is also likely to potentiate outcomes.

"Sophisticated approaches to anti-bullying are usually characterised by the doing the opposite of what bullying engenders in observers - i.e. our default is to feel that draconian punishment will change behaviour, but this is rarely the case."