The bystander effect, the reduction in helping behavior in the presence of other people, has been explained predominantly by situational influences on decision making. Diverging from this view, we highlight recent evidence on the neural mechanisms and dispositional factors that determine apathy in bystanders. We put forward a new theoretical perspective that integrates emotional, motivational, and dispositional aspects. In the presence of other bystanders, personal distress is enhanced, and fixed action patterns of avoidance and freezing dominate. This new perspective suggests that bystander apathy results from a reflexive emotional reaction dependent on the personality of the bystander.