CH.2 THEORIES OF COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR
Theory is an explanation for a general class of phenomena
CONTAGION or TRANSFORMATION THEORY
It is how people in collectivities come to behave uniformly, intensely, and at variance
with their usual patterns
In a collectivity, mechanisms such as imitation, suggestion and emtl contagion
operate in addition to anonymity and restricted attention which neutralize ordinary
Collective behavior is contagious like a disease. During presence of others,
excitement is created and CB is caused due to emotional, irrational and often violent
Herbert Blumer- mechanisms of social contagion, how a mood of collective
excitement is spread in a form of social interaction he calls a circular reaction. All
people have certain impulses, desires, etc.
When state of individual restlessness becomes communicated with others that it
becomes contagious and generates a state of general social unrest.
Social unrest is marked by 3 basic characteristics. 1. Ppl gripped byit have urge to act
but are unsure of what is they seek. 3. Ppl experience an excited ppl usually in form
of vague apprehensions, alarms, fears, insecurity, etc. and these feelings are
conducive to rumors and to exaggerated views and perceptions 3. Irritability and
increased suggestibility of ppl.
During periods of unrest, 3 basic types of social interaction develop which are milling,
collective excitement and social contagion
Milling: individuals move arnd amongst one another in aimless and random fashion
such as in interweaving of cattle or sheep who are in state of excitement. It makes
individuals in such interaction more sensitive and responsive to one another. People
in this state much more disposed to act together, under the influence of a common
impulse or mood than they are to act separately
Collective Excitement: intense form of milling. Excited behavior of some members
of collectivity cannot be ignored by others. It compels attention and makes for a loss
of normal control. People are more emotionally arouse and more likely to be carried
away by impulses and feelings.
Social Contagion: it is relatively rapid, unwitting, and non-rational dissemination of
a mood, impulse or form of conduct. It generates fads, crazes, mania, etc. It attracts
and infects individuals, many of whom originally merely detached and indifferent
spectators and bystanders 6 Problems
1. Contagion theory focused on unusual and extreme cases tht most observers would
regard as destructive and irrational like riots. Contagion is a process, it refers to the
communication of a certain mood in a collective setting.
2. Unwarranted assumption about crowd unity or uniformity.
3. + 4. Unwarranted assumption that people in crowds are anonymous and
unaccountable when in fact they are in gathering with others whom they know and
whose opinions they value
5. CT assumes tht there is an iron clad rule that, once like-minded individuals gather and
begin to get whipped up into an intense emotional state, this mood will inevitably
escalate and translate into some kind of behavioral outlet, such as a riot
6. It gives no indication of jst wht crowds, publics, or masses are likely to do in a given
situation. Contagion theory does not explain when and how contagion is activated
CONVERGENCE OR PREDISPOSITION THEORY
Contagion theory makes the assumption that all like-minded individuals in a given
collective situation will be swept up by the fervor of others.
Convergence theory is also called predisposition hypothesis. It says tht ppl act in
crowds or publics is an expression or outgrowth of who they are ordinarily. It
argues that like-minded ppl come together in, or converge on, a certain location
where collective behavior can and will take place where individuals can act out
tendencies or traits they had in the first place
The earliest and crudest version of convergence theory is that all people have at
least the potential for engaging in collective behavior such as rioting because in
doing so they are expressing the savage, brutal, primitive instincts that all of us
If an opportunity arises, our destructive arises our destructive instincts will
overwhelm us and force us to engage in brutal, destructive, and irrational and
highly emotional behavior. the convergence of ppl into a collective behavior
situation is the cmng together of any and ppl regardless of their characteristics.
We all have propensity for engaging in destructive mob behavior although some
of us choose not to place ourselves in situations that would permit this to happen
Certain kinds of ppl have propensity to engage in certain kinds of behaviour.
Convergence theory argues that a certain kind of individual is drawn to a certain
kind of fathering and engages in a certain kind of behaviour Even if collective behavior is in art an expression of pre-existing latent tendencies,
if these tendencies can’t find an appropriate set of circumstances to be
expressed, they cannot translate into action.
The individual doesn’t create crowd, mass or public in first place, although
gathering take time
EMERGENT NORM THEORY
Although there are differences btwn contagion and convergence theory, both
perspectives see collective behavior as irrational, destructive, and highly emotional
AND they see behaviour of individual participants and their emtl states, as fairly
uniform and unanimous AND they generally see collective behavior as violation of
ENT sees the above assumptions as false. It argues that collective behavior is no
more irrational, destructive, or emotional than conventional behavior; crowds are far
more heterogeneous and diverse than casual, unthinking observers believe; and
participation in collective behavior doesn’t violate mainstream norms as much as
revise them in light of a novel, unique situation for which conventional norms aren’t
provided or relevant
How do people see norms as binding, behavior as acceptable, beliefs as true is
through interaction with others.
More uncertain the condition, more susceptible individuals are to the suggestions of
others and the more influence the group has. CB is not so much a result of freedom
from ambiguous situations.
Conventional norms are ambiguous, new norms arise when old ones don’t work.
Same with CM, they revise the definition of the norm based on situation and engage
in behaviour. individuals in a given collectivity supply or seek justifications for their
course of action, communication in a grp setting entails a search to apply a particular
norm to a situation in which individual finds himself or herself
During looting, emergence of new norms in an unusual situation where old ones
don’t work. Looting is rarely opportunistic behavior, so ppl stealing to tke advantage
of the fact they’re unlikely to be caught. Looting rare in disasters but common