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Collective Behaviour

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Collective Behaviour

Crowd psychology investigates how the presence of a larger group influences our mentality and behaviour, known as collective behaviour. People can adopt drastically different behaviour when they are part of a large crowd compared to how they act as an individual. Collective behaviour certainly has greater power than individual behaviour. Crowds can start a revolution, and protests play an important role in pushing for social change.

However, crowd behaviour can be unpredictable and peaceful protests can quickly turn to riots. So, can crowd mentality encourage deviant behaviour? Can we predict how a large crowd will behave? These are the questions crowd psychology attempts to answer.

Collective Behaviour, large group of people,  StudySmarterBeing part of a collective can influence individual behaviour, Freepik

Collective behaviour theory in psychology

Collective behaviour refers to the behaviour of many people; interestingly, people who are part of a collective or a crowd seem to influence each other. We call this phenomenon 'mob mentality'.

Moreover, when part of a crowd, people can even lose their sense of responsibility as they follow the actions of others. The loss of personal responsibility, diffusion of responsibility, and the anonymity a crowded environment offers is why people who would never commit crimes on their own can do so when they are a part of a rioting crowd.

Collective behaviour definition

Collective behaviour can affect how a person behaves on many levels, so it is important that we understand the definition of collective behaviour.

Collective behaviour refers to people's actions when they are a part of a larger group.

Characteristics of collective behaviour

Spontaneity, lack of structure, and unpredictability characterise collective behaviour. Individuals involved tend to be heavily influenced by the crowd and lose their sense of individual responsibility for their actions.

Le Bon, who pioneered the early crowd psychology, argued that anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion are the main characteristics of groups that result in collective behaviour. Later, Leon Festinger coined the term deindividuation, which describes the processes that occur in groups when individuals become anonymous, and there is a displacement of personal responsibility onto the group.

Deindividuation

When members of a crowd are not identifiable, they are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviours. The anonymity of being in a crowd and identifying with it makes individuals more likely to do things they usually wouldn't under the influence of the collective.

Collective behaviour examples

We can distinguish two types of collective behaviour; prosocial and antisocial crowd behaviour.

  • Prosocial behaviour occurs when the group's collective actions intend to benefit others.

Prosocial crowd behaviour can include peaceful protests organised to fight for a good cause, spontaneous organisation of groups to help each other during natural disasters or fundraising to support conflict areas.

Collective Behaviour, Animation of crowd of people with signs of peace, StudySmarterProsocial crowd behaviour takes place in peaceful protests, Flaticon

  • Antisocial behaviour refers to socially harmful and disruptive behaviours like violence or vandalism. Antisocial crowd behaviour involves looting, rioting, and often disobedience or violence towards the police.

Disruptive and violent crowd behaviour is likely to occur in groups of football fans at football matches. Antisocial crowd behaviour can also be present during protests.

Crowd behaviour can be unpredictable and quickly shift from prosocial to antisocial, exemplified by the August riots in London in 2011.

In 2011, a peaceful protest in response to the police shooting of Mark Duggan quickly turned into wide-scale looting, arson and rioting that spread across London and lasted for five days. The riots resulted in damages to private vehicles and properties and the death of five people.

Social factors that influence collective behaviour

Social factors refer to factors related to the social context like the group's influence or culture. Focus is placed on how certain parts of the environment affect group behaviours.

Collective Behaviour: Social loafing

Social loafing occurs when individuals put less effort in when working on group activities and projects than when working towards a goal independently, as this is less obvious when part of a group.

The first evidence for social loafing came from Ringelmann's rope pulling experiment. Ringelmann found that as the number of people pulling the rope increased, each member of the group exerted less effort to pull the rope. Social loafing likely occurs because the more people are responsible for achieving the goal, the more significant the decrease in individual responsibility and motivation.

Social loafing can occur in group projects. When three people are assigned to a group project, they are likely to exert less effort than they typically would when working alone. Since everyone knows there are always others that could take action, the sense of individual responsibility is reduced.

Collective Behaviour: Deindividuation

The anonymity of being a part of the crowd reduces individuals' sense of responsibility for their actions and makes them more likely to break social norms. Deindividuation also involves a shift of identity; individuals can get immersed in the group's identity, and their sense of identity takes a backseat. Deindividuation doesn't only occur in collective behaviour; one's social role or obedience to authority combined with a sense of anonymity can elicit is as well.

Collective Behaviour A green person figure with a question mark on its face StudySmarterAnonymity can encourage breaking social norms, Flaticon

Zimbardo (1969) conducted an obedience experiment similar to the Milgram experiment. Participants had to give electric shocks to confederates. One group of participants wore hooded clothes that concealed their identity, while the other group wore name tags that made them easily identifiable.

Zimbardo found that participants given more anonymity were more likely to administer stronger and longer electric shocks to confederates.

Collective Behaviour: Culture

Cultural context can influence people's values and perceived responsibility. Individualistic cultures focus mainly on achieving their individual goals and meeting their individual needs. In collectivist cultures, the focus is on supporting the group you are a part of, so the group's goals are achieved.

The greater sense of responsibility for achieving group goals in collectivist cultures can affect the susceptibility to collective behaviour within them.

Dispositional factors that influence collective behaviour

Dispositional factors refer to the characteristics of an individual. Individual differences make some people more susceptible to group influence than others. Some individuals still work hard when working in large groups or refuse to engage in crowd behaviours that do not align with their values.

Collective Behaviour: Personality

An aspect of personality that can influence our susceptibility to collective influence is the locus of control.

Locus of control indicates how we feel personally responsible for what happens to us.

Individuals with an internal locus of control feel responsible for their behaviour and the outcomes of their actions. While individuals with an external locus of control tend to attribute what happens to them to external factors like chance or the influence of others. Having an internal locus of control can generally make individuals less susceptible to group influence, as they have a greater sense of personal responsibility.

Collective Behaviour Demonstration of the LOC Spectrum StudySmarterDemonstration of the LOC spectrum, StudySmarter Originals

Collective Behaviour: Morality

Morality refers to a sense of what behaviour is right and what behaviour is wrong. What behaviours we deem moral or immoral can vary depending on the individual. Different people also have different degrees of 'moral strength' or conviction to their moral values. Having a strong sense of morality can make individuals less likely to engage in crowd behaviour that does not align with their moral values.

However, crowd behaviour can still influence some people with an internal locus of control and a strong sense of morality due to situational factors like deindividuation.

Convergence theory suggests collective behaviour is not an unpredictable result of deindividuation and group influence or that crowds can change the behaviour of individuals. Crowd behaviour is argued to be a result of the actions of like-minded individuals expressing their existing values and beliefs. According to this theory, if a crowd displays prosocial or antisocial behaviour depends on the individuals' intent before gathering in a group.

Implications of collective behaviour

Why is it important to understand the dynamics of collective behaviour?

  • Understanding processes like deindividuation has practical implications for preventing and predicting outbreaks of riots by increasing surveillance and accountability.

  • Understanding crowd behaviour cross-culturally also has implications for organising evacuations or managing large crowds for public safety.

  • Social loafing is an important concept for any situation that involves group work. Employers and educators can be mindful of it when supervising group projects and minimise its effects by, for example, increasing individual accountability for contributions.


Collective Behaviour - Key takeaways

  • Collective behaviour refers to people's actions when they are a part of a larger group.
  • Le Bon argued that anonymity, suggestibility and contagion cause collective behaviour. Festinger proposed that crowd behaviour occurs due to deindividuation. As individuals become unidentifiable members of the crowd, they lose a sense of personal responsibility for their actions.
  • The two types of crowd behaviour are antisocial and prosocial crowd behaviour.
  • Social factors that influence collective behaviour include social loafing, deindividuation and culture.
    • Social loafing occurs when individuals put less effort when working with a group.
    • Deindividuation occurs when people become unidentifiable, making them more likely to engage in antisocial behaviours.
    • Individualistic cultures focus on achieving individual goals, while collectivist cultures focus on the group's goals.
  • Dispositional factors that influence collectable behaviour include personality and morality.
    • Individuals with an internal locus of control are less susceptible to collective influence.
    • Individuals with greater 'moral strength' are less susceptible to collective influence.

Frequently Asked Questions about Collective Behaviour

Collective behaviour refers to people's actions when part of a larger group.

Two types of collective behaviour exist, prosocial collective behaviour and antisocial collective behaviour.

Le Bon argued anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion cause collective behaviour. Festinger proposed crowd behaviour occurs due to deindividuation. As individuals become unidentifiable members of the crowd, they lose a sense of personal responsibility for their actions.

An example of prosocial crowd behaviour is protesting, and an example of antisocial crowd behaviour is rioting.

Understanding collective behaviour is essential for predicting and preventing riots, managing evacuations and increasing group productivity.

Final Collective Behaviour Quiz

Question

What is collective behaviour?

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Answer

Collective behaviour refers to actions people engage in when they are a part of a larger group. 

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What are the characteristics of collective behaviour according to Le Bon?

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Answer

 Le Bon argued that anonymity, suggestibility and contagion are the main characteristics of groups that result in collective behaviour. 

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Who coined the term deindividuation?

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Answer

Leon Festinger

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What is deindividuation?

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Deindividuation occurs when individuals become unidentifiable members of the crowd and lose a sense of personal responsibility for their actions. 

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How can deindividuation lead to antisocial behaviour?

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Answer

The anonymity of being in a crowd and identifying with the crowd makes individuals more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour under the influence of the collective.


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What are the types of collective behaviour?

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Prosocial and antisocial collective behaviour.

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What is prosocial collective behaviour?

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Prosocial collective behaviour occurs when the collective actions of the group intend to benefit others.

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What is antisocial collective behaviour?

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Antisocial collective behaviour refers to socially harmful and disruptive crowd behaviours like violence or vandalism. Antisocial crowd behaviour involves looting, rioting and often disobedience or violence towards the police.

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What is an example of collective behaviour?

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Answer

In 2011, a protest was organised in response to the police shooting of Mark Duggan. The protest later turned into wide-scale rioting that spread across London and lasted for 5 days. The riots resulted in damages to private vehicles and properties as well as the death of 5 people.

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Question

What are the social factors that influence collective behaviour?

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Answer

  • Social loafing
  • Deindividuation
  • Culture

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Question

What is social loafing?

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Answer

Social loafing occurs when individuals put less effort in when working on group activities and projects than when working towards a goal on their own. 

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Why does social loafing occur?

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Social loafing occurs because the more people are responsible for achieving the goal the greater the decrease in individual responsibility and motivation. 

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What causes deindividuation?

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A sense of anonymity

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When can deindividuation occur?

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Deindividuation occurs in crowds, can be elicited by one's social role or obedience to authority

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What were the findings of Zimbardo's (1969) study?

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Zimbardo found that participants that were given more anonymity were more likely to administer stronger and longer electric shocks to confederates. 

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How can attitudes towards collective behaviour vary across cultures?

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In individualistic cultures, people tend to focus on their individual goals and needs, while in collectivist cultures people focus on the goals of the groups they belong to. 

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What dispositional factors influence collective behaviour?

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Answer

Personality and morality.

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How does personality affect collective behaviour?

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Answer

Individuals with an internal locus of control are less susceptible to collective influence.

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How does morality influence collective behaviour?

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Answer

Having a strong sense of morality can make individuals less likely to engage in crowd behaviour that is not in line with their moral values. 

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Why is collective behaviour important?


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Answer

Understanding collective behaviour is important for predicting and preventing riots, managing evacuations and increasing group productivity.

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