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SOCPSY 1Z03 Study Guide - Final Guide: 2011 England Riots, Gustave Le Bon, Suggestibility

6 pages46 viewsWinter 2016

Social Psychology
Course Code
Paul Glavin
Study Guide

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Collective Behaviour
Collective Behaviour – two or more people engaged in behaviour judged common or concerted on one
or more dimensions
- Spatial
- Temporal
- Scale
Crowds: A gathering of people who share a purpose
- Crowds are temporary gatherings of people in close physical proximity, engaging in a joint
- Participants may engage in one common activity, concerted action or a large variety of activities
- Some argue that a “mental unity of the crowd” exists, as this unanimity leads participants to
think, feel, and act in ways that are different than if each member were alone
7 Myths about Crowds – (SAID USE)
1. Spontaneity
2. Anonymity
3. Irrationality
4. Destructiveness
5. Unanimity
6. Emotionality
7. Suggestibility
Contagion Theory (LE BON)
- Gustave Le Bon, a French social psychologist born in 1841 is considered to be the founder of
crowd psychology – why people do they things they do in groups
-Deindividuation: Crowds create anonymity and reduce perceptions of personal responsibility
-Contagion: Tendency for people to imitate other people – in dense crowds, imitation of
behaviours spread quickly, creating appearance of a unanimous mass
- Le Bon’s 1895 book “The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind”, attributed crowd behaviour to
the ‘collective racial unconsciousness of the mob overtaking individuals’ sense of self and
personality and personal responsibility
- Le Bon developed his classical model of crowds in response to Rapid industrialization and
urbanization, French Revolution and from the Growing fear of the working class”
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- Le Bon’s work influenced future dictators
- The hypnotic influence combined with the anonymity of belonging to a large group of people,
results in irrational, emotionally charged behaviour
- The frenzy of the crowd is somehow contagious, like a disease and the contagion feeds upon
itself, growing with time
Evidence Against Contagion Theory
- In contrast to chaotic portrayals of crowd behaviour, crowd action is often patterned in ways
that reflect existing norms and cultures
- Initial historical accounts presented riots as ‘rebellions of the belly’
- BUT: Thompson revealed how individuals acted in ways that reflected their collective belief
- Rioters insisted on the idea of a moral community that was obliged to feed them and their
Convergence Theory (ALLPORT)
- Whereas the contagion theory states that crowds cause people to act in a certain way,
convergence theory says the opposite
- People who want to act in a certain way intentionally come together to form crowds
- Convergence theory was formulated by many leading sociologists and it assumes that when a
critical mass of individuals with the same desire to effect change come together, collective
action occurs almost automatically
- Think ‘strength in numbers’. One person might believe strongly in a cause but assumes that his
own individual action could not make a difference
- As a result, individuals rarely act out alone. When they can convene with other individuals who
have similar goals, the potential for successfully changing a policy or condition becomes more of
a reality. With the support of others, an individual feels that the goal is within reach
- “There is no psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a psychology of
individuals” (Allport 1924)
- INSTEAD: Similar and like-minded individuals often come together to form crowds
- Convergence: When those present at a gathering share certain qualities
- Crowd behaviour emerges from convergence of like-minded individuals
- Behaviour is not a result of the crowd itself, but instead due to the homogeneity of members
- Therefore not irrational, but acting instead in ways that conform to the collective interests of
Emergent Norm Theory (TURNER & KILLIAN)
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