Describe And Evaluate Two Explanations Of The

Behaviour Of Crowds Essay, Research Paper

Describe & Evaluate Two Explanations of the Behaviour of Crowds

When people are alone, their behaviour can be different to when they are part of a crowd, and sometimes this change in behaviour can even lead to violence. When you consider that crowds exist in nearly all walks of life, such as work, sports and general social life, this can become a problem, so why is it that a persons behaviour does in fact change?

There have been many studies in conjunction with crowd behaviour and they often fall into the category of conformity. An example of a highly respected experiment to do with conformity was carried out by Asch. It involved showing participants a set of two cards. On one of the cards, there was a line, whilst on the other card, there was a three lines, one of which was identical to that on the other card. The experiment proceeded by Asch asking participants to say aloud which line out of the three matched the single line on the other card. He found that when the participants were alone and were asked to decide, they all answered correctly by matching the two lines. So, it was then that Asch decided to change the settings of the experiment. This time around, he made the participants group together, but did it in a way that outcast one of the groups members in a way that the rest of the groups participants were now accomplices trying to catch out the na ve participant.

It was the job of the accomplishes to all shout out the wrong answer when asked to do so, in the view that it was thought that the na ve participant would then conform to the group decision. The results of the experiment showed that 74% of the na ve participants agreed with the incorrect group decision, even when the answer was undoubtedly obvious. In conclusion to his findings, Asch thought of three explanations to why people did in fact conform. Firstly there were the participants that genuinely believed that there own answer was correct, secondly there were the participants that may have felt that there own prediction was incorrect due to past experiences, for example, a history of bad eye sight could lead to uncertainty, and finally, there were those participants that agreed with the group solely because they could not bare to be in the individual minority.

In accordance with the above experiment, Crutchfield 55, carried out a similar experiment because he felt that that Asch s face to face experiment could not provide a stable enough conclusion for conformity. His experiments involved asking participants general knowledge questions, and allowing them to answer anonymously, yet at the same time, the participants were allowed to see the answers of the other group members. He felt that because the participants were not in fact in a face to face experience with the others, there feelings to conform may be different. However, he found that there was a high level of conformity within the groups answers, especially when the tasks became more difficult. But why is this?

Deutsch & Gerard outlined two theories that could be applied to people who do decide to conform. The first was called Informative . It was suggested that anyone who fell into this category, had an endogenous need to be right, and if it was thought that the chance of being wrong could occur, then the person at hand may feel the need to receive help from others, which in the experiment by Crutchfield, would mean looking at the other participants answers in the hope of being successful. The second theory outlined by Deutsch & Gerard was called Normative . This could be applied to anyone that naturally felt the need to be accepted and wished to fit in, so if it meant that changing a personal opinion to that of another group members, then he or she would do so simply to avoid confrontation with the others.

As well as conformity, the term de-individualisation has been used to explain crowd behaviour. Anyone who is classed as this, is thought to lose their sense of individuality and lose track of any responsibilities. This Mob Behaviour has been summarised as Social Contagion, by Le Bon. He found that people acted very differently when making up part of a group, such as the crowd of a football match. As part of these findings, The Social Identity Theory by Reicher (1984) and Tajfel (1978), was also created. They studied a riot that took place in the St Pauls area of Bristol, in which two men were arrested for drinking alcohol from within a caf , not licensed for the consumption of alcohol.

From these two original arrests, a few members of the public began to bombard the two arresting police officers with stones and bottles due to their decision to take away the apparent offenders. On seeing the behaviour of the few members of the publics reactions, other passers by soon joined in until a riot involving over 3000 people broke out onto the streets of Bristol. From this study, it was found that after interviewing members of the riot, that the people involved were seeing themselves in a high position of power, and thought that they were doing the right thing, whilst at the same time, they thought that the police were not doing the right thing. Le Bon proceeded to call this Mob Behaviour . It was argued, however, by Reicher, that the behaviour was not as erratic as first perceived, and in fact was planned out. This was due to the fact that none of the rioting members, hurt each other, and very few select buildings were chosen for damage, particularly those to do with power, such as the local tax office, whilst not damaging any of the area as a whole.

To conclude, it is evident therefore, that people can easily change their views and actions to simply fit in with the rest of the group or crowd. And even though it is not completely clear to why this occurs, it is now known that it is to do with the fact that people like to fit in with others, no matter how much that may require them to change.


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