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Lecture 15

Sociology 1025A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Collective Behavior, Moral Panic, Social Progress

Course Code
SOC 1025A/B
Lauren Barr

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Education and Social Change
Collective behavior refers to group behavior that is relatively spontaneous,
unstructured, and unconventional relative to conventional behaviour, which is
planned, structured, and normative in nature.
Social progress in Canada because of collective behaviour:
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982
Same sex marriage in 2005
A crowd is a temporary gathering of people who are in the same place at the same
time (i.e. a crowd is localized whereas other groups are more dispersed). Casual
crowds share only proximity, conventional crowds share an interest, expressive
crowds share an interest and are participatory, and acting crowds engage in the
pursuit of a common goal. Both expressive and acting crowds facilitate collective
Emergent norm theory suggests that crowds are more likely to consist of rational
people who develop new rules in order to manage ambiguous situations
According to this theory, situational ambiguity is resolved
Dispersed crowds engage in similar behaviours while not in the same general
proximity. Fads are popular social patterns, rumours are unsubstantiated stories
about people and events, gossip pertains to unsubstantiated and substantiated
stories about specific individuals, and urban legends are unsubstantiated stories
that persist over time. Widespread panic refers to shared fear, while moral panic
describes irrational but widespread worry that certain groups pose a threat to the
social order. Disasters are relatively sudden evets that cause damage and disruption
but often bring together collective reel efforts.
Fads are considered to be forms of collective behaviour because they impact a large
scattering of people who end up buying similar products, wearing similar styles, and
acting in similar ways such as trying out the latest diet.
During the rumour process, information gets lost and distorted in three ways:
Information gets levelled - a lot of the original details get omitted or lost
Information becomes sharpened to the viewpoint of the particular storyteller -
only the most interesting or salient details are most likely to be retained
A type of assimilation occurs - the storyteller focuses on a particular theme or
part of the rumour and may even embellish on it by adding details so that the
story better fits the storyteller's personal viewpoint.
Widespread panic entails a shared fear related to a threat
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Why might certain groups be at greater risk for disasters?
Social movements and collective behaviour both include unconventional forms of
group-based action. However, collective behaviour is spontaneous and
unstructured, whereas social movements involve prior organization and planning.
Social movements rest on the premise of claims making which identifies a perceived
social problem that the movement wishes to remedy, for example, by changing
norms or resisting new ones, by seeking limited or massive changes, or through
changes that affect only a small group versus the entire society.
How are social movements different from collective behaviour?
Collective Behaviour and
Social Movements
Collective Behaviour
Social Movements
Involves the behaviour of
a fairly large number of
Prior planning
Unconventional in nature
Based on social action
No identifiable leaders
Identifiable leaders
No basis in claims
Claims/claims making
Not goal-oriented
Goal - oriented
Claims making entails a social movement declaring a particular condition is unjust
and identifying the measures it considers necessary to correct the injustice.
Alternative social movements seek limited societal change for a specific group.
Redemptive social movements seek massive (or large-scale) changes for a specific
group. Reformative social movements seek limited social change, but the recipient
of the change is everyone in society. Revolutionary social movements seek massive
changes, or through changes that affect only a small group versus the entire society.
Revolutionary social movements seeks massive change for a narrow segment of
In identifying factors that promote social action, value added theory identifies the
importance of structural conduciveness, structural strain, generalized beliefs,
precipitating factors, mobilization for action, and a lack of social control; resource
mobilization theory emphasizes resources over other structural factors; and new
social movement theory emphasizes the formation of a collective identity.
Social Power
It’s iportat to look at ourselves as social agents -> we can make a difference
Through education & awareness we can change things
Does it allow you to reach your full potential?
Acts as an agent to teach us morality
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