PSYC 2310 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Gustave Le Bon, Philip Zimbardo, Floyd Henry Allport

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Social Psyc Chapter 10
- Intergroup relations: the way in which people in groups perceive, think about, feel about, and act
toward people in other groups
How do different theories explain intergroup relations?
- One important aspect of intergroup relations is the collective behaviour of people in a crowd
- Studying people’s behaviour in crowds or studying the collective action of people when they’re part of
a large mass can be difficult
- This is the case because there are many factors that influence people’s behaviour in crowds, including
-each individual’s motivation and goals in being part of the crowd,
- the presence of others who share those motivations and goals,
- the presence of others who oppose them,
- the cues that are present in the environment,
- and the individuals perception of an injustice being carried out against themselves or the group
Early research and theories of crowd behaviour
- One of the earliest theories of crowd behaviour was suggested by Gustav Le Bon
- He observed Riots in France and argued that when people become part of a crowd they “descend
several rungs on the ladder of civilization people act instinctively and become irrational
- According to Le Bon, 3 characteristics are associated with the processes that seem to be specific to
1. Anonymity: People in a crowd become anonymous and are therefore less responsible for their
2. Suggestibility: When people’s social constraints are loosened, they become more suggestible.
When one or a few individuals start to act on their aggressive impulses, others copy due to heightened
suggestibility, giving in to their own urges to act unreasonably and aggressively
3. Contagion: The irrationality and acts of violence are contagious and sweep through the crowd
(due to heightened suggestibility)
- In other words, Le Bon argued that people go mad in crowds that crowd behaviour is destructive,
pathological, and should be controlled
- McDougall characterized crowds as impulsive, violent, suggestible, and emotional
- Both of them described crowds as possessing a group mind
- Under the influence of the collective mind, people are less responsible for their actions, act based on
instinct, become less intelligent, and become more violent
- These two had negative perceptions of crowds and believed that a crowd has to be controlled and
- Floyd Allport argued that there is no psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a
psychology of individuals
- Allport rejected the idea of a group mind and suggested that the individual in the crowd behaves just
as he would behave only more so
- He thought crowds allowed people to be bad
- Regardless, both theories agreed that crowds are destructive and harmful
- In response to Allport’s position, other psychologists including Muzafer Sherif, Solomon Asch, and
Philip Zimbardo, argued that social groups and crowds in particular have characteristics that can’t be
understood by studying individuals
- Zimbardo offered the theory of deindividuation
- According to Zimbardo, when people are in large groups, they’re less likely to follow normal rules of
- Partly because people in large groups become anonymous and these is a sense of diffusion of
individual responsibilities
- Believes anonymity is a social circumstance that leads to the psychological state of
- Deindividuation occurs when one loses this awareness of oneself as a distinct individual, and one
therefore feels less compelled to follow normal rules of behaviour
- More likely to occur in group setting, and contributes to the tendency of groups of people to engage in
highly destructive actions
- One factor that contributes to deindividuation is anonymity
- Group setting provide anonymity because each individual is less distinguishable
- Also enhanced in situations where people wear uniforms or paint or cover their face, which makes the
person less identifiable
- Anonymity is understood to be a social circumstance that is a precursor of deinidividuation
- in 1973, Zimbardo conducted a study known as the Stanford Prison Experiment
- 24 male university students from Canada and the US were selected from more than 70
applicants who responded to a local newspaper ad on a study of the psychological effects on prison life
- Participants were selected based on diagnostic interviews and personality tests and were
considered to be healthy and intelligent with no history of crime or drug abuse
- They were divided into 2 groups either guard or prisoner
- The prisoners were blindfolded, picked up from their residence by city police, and brought to
the basement of the psychology building
- Guards were given uniforms, reflective sunglasses, whistles, and billy clubs
- Prisoners were given uniforms and were referred to by their prisoner number
- All these instructions were intended to increase deindividuation
- Participants acting as guards became abusive and forced prisoners to perform cruel and
humiliating tasks
- The prisoners although rebellious at first, became passive within days and in some cases highly
- Overall the results indicated that participants soon identified with the role they were given
- The experiment was terminated after only 6 days because of the extreme behaviour
- In another study, Zimbardo found that female university students who wore identical white coats and
hoods, similar to the KKK, gave longer electric shocks to another participant than those who wore their
own clothes and were identified with a name tag
- The anonymity of the white coat and hood appeared to facilitate aggression
- Research shows that the cues in the social environment are important in increasing or decreasing
aggressive behaviour
- Study by Johnson and Downing 1979:
- American female undergrad students told they had to evaluate the learning of another student
(actually a confederate) and give a shock whenever they made a wrong answer
- Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions:
1. individuation: participants wore a large name tag
2. deindividuation: participants had no name tag or identifying information
3. pro-social cue condition: wore a coat that looked like a nurse’s uniform
4. anti-social cue condition: wore a coat that looked like a KKK robe
- Results indicated a significant effect for costume cues
- Participants who wore the KKK robe gave more shocks
- Participants in the nurse uniform gave less shock when they were deindividuated, but the KKK
robe didn’t increase the anti-social response when the participant was deinidividuated
- This study indicated deindividuation doesn’t always increase antisocial behaviour, and if there
are positive cues in the environment, it can actually increase pro-social behaviour
- When anonymous, one becomes more responsive to the cues in the situation, rather than
simply behaving more aggressively, especially if the social cues promote prosocial behaviour
- Another factor that contributes to deindividuation is accountability or lack of it meaning whether a
person expects to be held responsible for his or her actions
- Because people in groups settings are less likely to be identified, they feel less accountable and
therefore more uninhibited in their behaviour than individuals who are acting alone
- In line with this view, as the size of the group increases, so does its level of violence
Decrease in self-awareness
- Group settings also lead to a decrease in self-awareness, which in turn leads to deindividuation
- People in a group have less of a sense of themselves as distinct individuals
- This decrease in self-awareness leads people to be less focused on matching their behaviour to their
normal standards
- We have a higher willingness to engage in less moral behaviour when our self-awareness is low
- What happens when people become less aware of themselves as individuals?
- Le Bon believed people regress to a more primitive, mad state
- Allport believed they become the selfish grasping (bad) individual that they really are
underneath the veneer of social constraints
- An alternative view is that as you become less aware of your individual identity you become
more aware of a group, or social, identity
Social Identity Theory
- An important aspect of crowd behaviour that was overlooked by Le Bon, Allport, and Zimbardo is its
intergroup dimension
- Reicher argued that in many crowd situations there are at least two groups this simple point was
virtually ignored in previous theories of crowd behaviour
- Groups act in response to the behaviour (or expected behaviour) of the other group
- this occurs even when people are protesting in the absence of another group, such as the
police, a rival group of sports fans, or a rival group of political supporters
- They’re usually protesting against another group, usually a ruling elite
- Reicher asserted that crowd behaviour is often intergroup behaviour, in which terms the behaviour can
make more sense it is not simply mad or bad
- People in a crowd don’t lose their identity in some way but instead assume a new social identity as a
member of a particular group
- According to Reicher, people in a crowd adopt a stronger sense of social identity
- Therefore in crowds, there is a change in identity rather than a loss of one
- Reicher’s argument is based on the social identity theory
- In sum, when people are in a group, and that group membership is salient, it’s their group goal and
group identity that regulate their behaviour