The impact of onlooking and including bystander behaviour on judgments and emotions regarding peer exclusion

Tina Malti, Dagmar Strohmeier, Melanie Killen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated judgments and emotions in contexts of social exclusion that varied as a function of bystander behaviour (N = 173, 12- and 16-year-olds). Adolescents responded to film vignettes depicting a target excluded by a group with no bystanders, onlooking bystanders, or bystanders who included the target. Adolescents were asked to judge the behaviour and attribute emotions to the excluding group, the excluded target, and the bystanders. Younger adolescents judged the behaviour of the excluding group as more wrong than older adolescents when there were no bystanders present, indicating that the presence of bystanders was viewed as lessening the negative outcome of exclusion by the younger group. Yet, bystanders play a positive role only when they are includers, not when they are silent observers. This distinction was revealed by the findings that adolescents rated the behaviour of onlooking bystanders as more wrong compared with the behaviour of including bystanders. Moreover, all adolescents justified the inclusive behaviour more frequently with empathy than the onlooking behaviour. Adolescents also anticipated more empathy to including bystanders than to onlooking bystanders, as well as anticipated more guilt to onlooking bystanders than including bystanders. The findings are discussed in light of the role of group norms and group processes regarding bystanders' roles in social exclusion peer encounters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-311
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


  • Emotion attributions
  • Social cognition
  • Social exclusion
  • Age Factors
  • Humans
  • Peer Group
  • Male
  • Adolescent Development
  • Empathy
  • Emotions
  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Social Distance
  • Adolescent Behavior/psychology
  • Child
  • Judgment
  • Psychological Distance


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