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Chapter 23

SOC100H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 23: Collective Behavior

, Winter 2011
8 pages140 viewsWinter

Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC100H5
Professor
Suzanne Casimiro
Chapter
23

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Chapter 23: Collective Behaviour and Social Movements
Social movement: organized activity that encourages or discourages social
change
Collective behaviour: activity involving large number of people, often
spontaneous, and usually in violation of established norms
Other forms of collective behaviour includes mobs, riots, crowds, gossips and
rumour, public opinion, fashion and fads and panic and mass hysteria
Studying Collective Behaviour
Studying collective behaviour is difficult for three reasons:
Collective behaviour is diverse
Involves wide range of human action
Collective behaviour is variable
Much collective behaviour is transitory
Disasters, rumours and fads come and go quickly
all collective behaviour involves action of some collectivity (large number of people
whose minimal interaction occurs in the absence of well-defined and conventional
norms)
olocalized collectivity: refers to people physically close to one another
odispersed collectivity/mass behaviour: involves people who influence one
another despite being spread over large area
three main differences between collectivities and social groups:
1.people in collectivities have little or no social interaction
2.collectivities have no clean social boundaries
3.collectivities generate weak and unconventional norms
Localized Collectivities: Crowds
crowd: temporary gathering of people who share a common focus of attention
and who influence one another
Herbert Blumer identified four categories of crowds:
Casual CrowdDefn: loose collection of people who interact very little, if at all
Ex. People lying on a beach
Conventional
CrowdDefn: results from deliberate planning
Ex. Country auction, college lecture or funeral
Behaviour of people involved follows set of norms
Expressive CrowdDefn: forms around an event with emotional appeal
Whatever the occasion, excitement is the main reason people
join expressive crowds
Acting CrowdDefn: collectively motivated by intense, single-minded purpose
Set in motion by powerful emotions, which can sometimes
trigger mob violence
Mobs and Riots
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Mobs: highly emotional crowd that purses a violent or destructive goal
Because of its intense emotions, mobs tend to dissipate quickly
Lynch soon came to mean violence and murder carried out beyond the law
Riot: highly energized crowd, acting with no particular purpose; social eruption that
is highly emotional, violent and undirected
Riot usually has no clean goal
Cause of most riots is some long-standing anger or grievance
Violent action is ignited by some minor incident which causes people to start
destroying property and harming other persons
Whereas a mob action usually ends when a specific violent goal has been achieved or
decisively prevented, a riot tends to disperse only as participants run out of steam or
as community leaders/police controls them
Riots often serve as collective expressions of social injustice
Crowds, Mobs, and Social Change
Ordinary people can gain power by acting collectively
Power of the crowd to challenge the status quo and sometimes to force social change
is the reason that crowds are controversial
Explaining Crowd Behaviour
Contagion TheoryGustave LeBon
Crowds have a hypnotic effect on their members
People forget about personal responsibility and give in to the
contagious emotions of the crowd
Stirring up emotions and driving people toward irrational, and
violent action
Convergence TheoryHolds that crowd behaviour comes not from the crowd itself but
from the particular people that join in
Crowd is a convergence of like-minded individuals
States that the opposite, claiming that people who wish to act in a
certain way come together to form crowds
Emergent Norm
TheoryRalph Turner and Lewis Killian
Crowds begin as collectivities containing people with mixed
interests and motives
In short, people in crowds make their own rules as they go along
Dispersed Collectivities: Mass Behaviour
mass behaviour: collective behaviour among people spread over a wide geographic
area
Rumour and Gossip
Rumour: unconfirmed information that people spread informally, often by word of
mouth
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Rumours have three main characteristics:
1 . Rumour thrives in a climate of uncertainty- rumours arise when people lack clear
and certain information about an important issue
2. Rumour is unstable-people change rumours as they pass them along, giving them
spin that serves their own interests (broken telephone)
3. Rumour is difficult to stop- number of people aware of a rumour increases very
quickly because each person spreads the information to many others
Gossip: rumour about peoples personal affairs
Charles Horton Cooley explained that rumour involves some issue many people are
about, but gossip interests only a small circle of people who know a particular
person
Gossip tends to be localized
Communities use gossip as means of social control, using praise and blame people to
conform local norms
Public Opinion and Propaganda
Public opinion: widespread attitudes about controversial issues
Public issues are important matters about which people disagree
Some categories of people are more likely to be asked for their opinions and what
they say will have more clout because they are better educated, wealthier or better
connected
Propaganda: information presented with the intention of shaping public opinion
We offer information to enlighten others; we use propaganda to sway people toward
our point of view
Goal of making people think or act in some specific way
Fashion and Fads
Fashion: social pattern favoured by a large number of people; ex. Clothing, music,
cars
Georg Simmel explained that rich people are trendsetters because they attract a lot
of attention
Ordinary people who want to look wealthy are eager to buy less expensive copies of
items made fashionable by the rich; ex. Louis Vuitton
In this way, a fashion moves downward through the class structure, eventually a
fashion loses its prestige when too many average people share it, so the rich move on
to something new
Fashions are born at the top of the social hierarchy, rise to mass popularity and soon
are forgotten
Fad: unconventional social pattern that people embrace briefly but enthusiastically
Common in high-income societies where people have money to spend on amusing
things
Fads capture the public imagination but quickly burn out
Because fashions reflect basic cultural values such as individuality and sexual
attractiveness, they tend to stay around for a while
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