We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy


The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now
Explain the place of anonymity in theories of crowd behaviour . Is it always associated with a ‘loss of self ‘

It’s claimed feelings of anonymity from the security of being in the crowd encourages individuals to behave outside of their normal constraints , producing unpredictable and violent outcomes . This notion was put forward by Le Bon , one of the founders of crowd psychology research , and has been carried forward in subsequent de -individuation theories of crowd behaviour . This assignment , however , will argue power relations are present in the use of these explanations . Also it will show , De – individuation theory research and its focus on establishing a relationship between anonymity and aggression , fails to address peoples own perceptions of being in a group or the wider context , due to its outside perspective . Here , it’s argued the inside perspective from a social identity approach shows there is no anonymity within the crowd , and behaviour is very much constrained by group expectations , relevant to the context .

Le Bon’s work , cited in Dixon & Mahendran (2012) , and his idea of a ‘ group mind , where people succumb to a ‘hypnotic influence’ through a process termed ‘contagion ‘ , has influenced subsequent research in crowd psychology . Arguing individuals behave in ways they would not normally do when in large numbers , he considered crowds to be dangerous , unpredictable and needing to be controlled , going on to note how when in groups individuals become easily manipulated . However , to Dixon & Mahendran (2012) his research was based on distant observation of crowds of the lower classes , of which he was not a member .

Taking forward the idea of a group mind , Festinger et al , cited in Dixon & Mahendran (2012) propose instead a concept of de-individuation . Arguing ,when members of a crowd feel anonymous from being one amongst many they can also feel less accountable as an ‘individual identity’ . In addition to this , Dennier 1980 & Prentice -Dunn & Roger’s , as cited in Dixon & Mahendran , 2012 conjectured to highlight the contribution of some contextual features of being in a crowd , such as : a state of emotional arousal ; the awareness of being part of a group ; and a joint group
fixation which they claim can contribute to deflecting attention away from feeling like an individual identity.

When anonymity leads to de – individuation people people are more conscious of the group than themselves , amd to Zimbardo ,cited in Dixon & Mahendran ( 2012 ) this leads to a ‘diffusion of responsibility’, which increases aggression and anti -normative behaviour . Moreover it is argued by Dennier& Prentice -Dunn & Roger’s , as cited in Dixon & Mahendran , (2012) as behavioural and moral boundaries become more fluid they are transgressed more easily ; in this irrational state people respond to cues in the immediate environment , the process that Le Bon called ‘contagion ‘. There has been much research into the effect’s of de-individuation on behaviour , which a review of 60 studies by Postmes & Spears , cited in Dixon & Mahendran (2012 ) criticised for being mainly experiments involving the measurement of aggression or deviance , yet the role of context in the anonymous conditions seems quite apparent . Most notably , Zimbardo 1969 , cited in Dixon & Mahendran (2012) , researched de -individuation affects on aggressive behaviour using conditions of anonymity and identified subjects who administered electric shocks as punishment in a learning experiment , in which the anonymous group wore hoods and gowns .

The quantifiable data showed the anonymous group delivered significantly higher shocks , so the conclusion reached was anonymity lead to an increase in aggression . However , Johnson & Downing cited in Dixon & Mahendran (2012) extended zimbado’s experiment , subjects were made anonymous or identifiable , wearing Ku-Klux -Klan or nurses uniforms with or without name badges .They found a higher intensity of aggression in the anonymous khlan condition , but found a significantly higher level of compassion in the anonymous nurses condition , suggesting anonymity increased the desire to comply with the perceived norms for the social identity being adopted , relevant to the particular social context .

Research into the relationship between individuals’ social identities and crowd behaviour has developed into an approach which explains crowd behaviour based on the Social Identity theory developed by Tajfel & Turner ,1979 . When Reiceher & Stott cited in Dixon & Mahendran (2012) observedn commentators and the media , from their outside perspective , focusing on de-individaution explanations for the London riots in 2011 , they sought to challenge these accounts using a social identity framework . By conducting interviews with people involved in the rioting , and a qualitative analysis of the processes leading to the main events , they sought to gain an insider perspective and understand the meaning of the crowds actions in relation to social identity and the wider social context . They found a genuine grievance which people wished to address with the police was met with hostility outside a local police station , causing a group perception of them against us , in perceiving their community and social identity to be under attack others from the community foregrounded their social identity and acted in the way they seen their social group acting , and which they believed to be a valid response in that context .

A noticeable difference between the above explanations is the value given to crowd behaviour . Le Bon and De -individuation take away any validity for crowd actions . A group mind or loss of self allows peoples actions to be explained as criminal or irrational . Foregrounding a social identity represents the feelings and motivations of a collective , which can be viewed from those on the outside of the group as a danger or challenge to their social order

To Dixon & Mahendran , 2012 , a social Identity explanation challenges the processes of contagion and claims of irrational behaviour within crowds , forwarded by de -individuation theorists and Le Bon . Instead arguing crowd behaviour is shaped by a process of ‘ inductive categorisation ‘ . Where , a desire for their own social identity to be accepted by the crowd causes people to join in with behaviour they see as appropriate in that social context . As a result crowd behaviour is regulated from within , because any behaviour by an individual which is not perceived as typical of the group’s social identity in that context would place the individual outside of the group , the rest of the group not finding it acceptable .

Finally , whilst this approach also recognises that individual psychology can be altered when people become immersed in the crowd , according to Dixon & Mahendran , 2012 , it is not viewed as a total loss of self , and in contrast to a de-individuation account , neither does it recognise members of the crowd as feeling anonymous or loosing their own sense of themselves as morally accountable and responsible . Instead , Dixon & Mahendran , 2012, argue , seeking recognition from others in the crowd makes people feel very much accountable for their behaviour based on a different part of their identity – their social identity . This is foregrounded when part of a persons’ own social self identifies with others in the group , through sharing the same social category and their values and beliefs about certain social issues such as those that started the London riots . Understood this way , anonymity from being in a crowd only extends to the loss of of the self as an individual identity , and people in a crowd are only anonymous to those outside the group .

To conclude , it has been shown under certain social conditions being in a crowd does alter individual psychology . The work of Le Bon , from its outsider perspective, influenced later crowd psychology research , so later de – individuation theorists’ maintained the view of crowds as producing anti normative and aggressive behaviour , occurring due to a feeling of anonymity and a loss of self awareness . However , social identity theory presents a potent challenge to what had become an established way for collective actions to be invalidated by those who felt threatened by crowd actions . It maintains , only peoples individual identities are lost in crowds , and this is not taken from people . Instead , they foreground their social identity while identifying with the group , its behaviours and social norms . These are enacted in a way relevant to the social context in order to maintain acceptance by the group . As was found by Reicher & Stott , crowd behaviour is both constrained and rational when considered in relation to peoples social identity and the context .

J , Dixon & Mahendran , K (2012 ) ‘ Crowds’ , in Hollway ,W. , Lucey , H . , A , Phoenix . , & Lewis , G . (eds) ‘ Social Psychology Matters ‘ , Cullompton , Willan Publishing/ Milton Keynes , The Open University .

Word count 1511

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59