Mar 04, 2023

The Psychology Behind Mob Mentality - How Groups Can Influence Individual Behaviour

The Psychology Behind Mob Mentality

The subject of crowd behavior is a captivating domain that piques the interest of many a psychological scholar.


The subject of crowd behaviour is a captivating domain that piques the interest of many a psychological scholar. It encompasses the intricate web of understanding how individuals comport themselves when they find themselves enmeshed in a collective, and the ways in which their behaviour can be influenced by the actions and emotions of their peers. The investigation of crowd behaviour is significant for multifarious reasons, as it sheds light on the root causes of why people may at times act in unexpected or irrational ways when in a group setting. Furthermore, it offers insight into how group dynamics can be deftly manipulated to generate positive results, such as the promotion of elevated levels of cooperation and social cohesion.

Definition of Crowd Behaviour

Crowd behaviour denotes the patterns of action exhibited by individuals as members of a collective entity. The manifestations of such behaviour are manifold, ranging from the harmonious synchronization of chants, cheers, and applause to the antithetical belligerent conduct of rioting, looting, and violence. It can be affirmative, exemplified by the joint demonstration of support for a shared objective or the jubilation of a shared triumph. Conversely, it can be deleterious, particularly when the subsuming of individual identity leads to a loss of personal accountability. This loss can precipitate the disintegration of societal conventions and an augmented likelihood of destructive and violent deeds. Proficiency in comprehending crowd behaviour is crucial for psychologists, sociologists, and other researchers, as it has the potential to cast light on the impact of group dynamics on individual decision-making and actions

Theories of Crowd Behaviour

Within the realm of psychology, there are various theories aimed at elucidating the perplexing behaviour of crowds, each offering a unique vantage point.

Social identity theory posits that individuals derive a portion of their self-concept from the social groups they belong to. When part of a crowd, individuals may experience an elevated sense of social identity and feel a stronger connection to the group. This, in turn, may lead them to adopt behaviours and attitudes aligned with the group's norms and values, even if these behaviours and attitudes differ from their typical ones. For instance, sports fans may identify strongly with their team, exhibiting behaviours like cheering and chanting that align with this identity.

Deindividuation theory suggests that individuals in a crowd may undergo a loss of self-awareness and personal responsibility, resulting in uninhibited and impulsive behaviour. When individuals feel anonymous and unidentifiable within a crowd, they may perceive less accountability for their actions and be more willing to engage in behaviours they would otherwise avoid. In situations like riots, individuals may feel freer to engage in violent or destructive behaviours because they sense that they are part of a larger group, and therefore, less liable to be held personally accountable.

Contagion theory proposes that the emotions and behaviours of individuals in a crowd can rapidly spread and become contagious, like a virus. This can lead to emotional contagion, where one person's emotions in the crowd can quickly spread to others, creating a collective emotional state. For instance, during a concert, the excitement of one fan can swiftly spread to others, resulting in an upbeat and enthusiastic atmosphere that contributes to the overall enjoyment of the event.


Factors Affecting Crowd Behaviour

The multifarious nature of factors that can influence crowd behaviour cannot be overstated. A complex interplay of several key determinants ranging from group size to emotional arousal can contribute to the perplexing and often unpredictable behaviours observed in crowds.

Group size is a crucial factor that can impact the behaviour of individuals in a crowd. As the number of individuals in a group increases, the sense of anonymity and decreased cohesion can engender a milieu of negative behaviours that would otherwise be inhibited by social norms and expectations. Conversely, smaller groups tend to be more tightly knit and may adhere to social norms more closely. 

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