Bystander Intervention in Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: The Role of Expectancy Violations

Nicholas Brody


The present study extends expectancy violations theory to investigate bystander behavior during cyberbullying and online harassment incidents. Adult participants (N = 368) recalled a recent incident of cyberbullying or online harassment that they observed as a witness and assessed the expectedness and valence of the incidents. Results suggest that incidents were largely seen as negative and as violations of the participants’ expectations. Furthermore, the negative valence of the incident moderated the effects of unexpectedness on bystander behavior. Specifically, the more participants saw incidents as unexpected and negative, the less likely they were to passively stand by and observe the incident or join in with the perpetrators. Theoretical and practical implications and limitations of the findings are discussed.


cyberbullying, online harassment, bystander intervention, expectancy violations theory

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