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Describe and evaluate two explanations of the behaviour of crowds.

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Introduction

Describe and evaluate two explanations of the behaviour of crowds. Crowds are large groups of people. They lack organisation and communication between members, and often gather together on a meeting basis. Group life is the term we use to describe the overall emotional development of a group. The portrayal of the life of a group reflects a combination of the feelings, hidden agenda's and unconscious needs of individuals and how these interact to influence the development and feel of a group. There are many explanations why people act as they do in crowds. This includes deindividuation, bystander apathy, social contagion, and density-intensity hypothesis. Deindividuation, can be broken down into three components: 1. Inputs, 2. Internal changes, 3. Behavioural outcomes. Inputs (or causes of deindividuation) include feelings of anonymity, diffusion of responsibility, membership in large groups, and a heightened state of physiological arousal. The deindividuated state itself appears to involve two basic components: reduced self-awareness and altered experiencing. Although, Zimbardo emphasises the negative consequences of deindividuation, violent actions do not always follow losses of identity and self-awareness. In fact, evidence indicates that, given certain prosocial cues, deindividuated group members may behave altruistically and that some of the atypical behaviours that had previously been interpreted as disinhibited, impulsive actions were actually attempts to re-establish a sense of individuality According to Festinger, Pepitone and Newcomb, (who first proposed the idea in 1952) ...read more.

Middle

It involved participants spending an hour in a dark room or a fully lit room. In the dark room, the participants chatted at first in a lively manner but then talked about serious matters. Then this was replaced by physical contact. Ninety % deliberately touched the other participants; fifty % hugged and eighty % admitted to be sexually aroused. In comparison those in the fully lit room talked politely for the whole hour. This shows we can become uninhibited in the dark where intimacy no longer prevails Another example of crowd behaviour is bystander apathy. This is when there are many people around and fewer people help. Research into bystander intervention started during the mid-sixties in response to the assault and eventual murder of Kitty Genovese. At 3:00 in the morning, over a period of 30 minutes, Kitty Genovese was attacked three times in the courtyard of her apartment building. The man first mugged her, left, then returned to rape her, left again, and finally returned to kill her. This entire tragedy was witnessed, and her screams for help heard, by 38 of her neighbours, none of who came to her rescue or even phoned to police. ...read more.

Conclusion

Views like these have given crowds a bad name. Those in authority treat all crowds as mobs e.g. police. This mentally contributed to the Hillsborough disaster (Banyard 1989). Many deaths could have been prevented. The disaster occurred at the ground of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club on the 15 April 1989 during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest. Mismanagement by police and officials allowed thousands of Liverpool supporters into already overcrowded pens, a fatal mistake that "directly followed from a [false] interpretation by South Yorkshire Police that they were dealing with a violent crowd pitch invasion, rather than a problem of safety and overcrowding." (Redhead, 1997: 11-12). As a result the pens became terribly overcrowded, with no means of escape due to perimeter fencing set up to prevent pitch invasions. The resulting crush cost the lives of 96 people and resulted in 730 injured. The disaster at Hillsborough had been an accident, brought on by hooliganism, carelessness and incompetence. Is group behaviour always as unreasonable as Zimbardo made out? For example the St. Paul's black police civil disturbances in Bristol in 1984 were violent but were also controlled. This is because the violence was only aimed at certain specific targets and avoided others. (E.g. local shops and houses). The riot was confined to an area in the heart of a community too (Brown 1988). ...read more.

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