• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"The phenomenon of crowds is so mysterious that, however unscientific they may be, theories such as those of Le Bon and Freud are as good as any others we may have." Discuss

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"The phenomenon of crowds is so mysterious that, however unscientific they may be, theories such as those of Le Bon and Freud are as good as any others we may have." Discuss Le Bon was of the opinion that when people joined large, relatively unstructured social groups, they sometimes engaged in spontaneous and atypical collective behaviour. Le Bon suggests that crowds are ruled by a collective mind, and that contagion causes crowd members to experience similar thoughts and emotions. Freud, on the other hand, argues that individuals, by joining crowds, can satisfy some basic needs for membership, hostility, and so on. Both of these theories are still popular today but lacking empirical evidence we strive to find more tangible theories that can be tested. Several theories have been developed since these accounts such as de-individuation, emergent norm theory and social identity theory and this essay will look at these theories and try to assess whether or not they are better than Le Bon and Freud's theories which lack any scientific basis. Le Bon, the author of The Crowd was writing during a time of 'incipient social progress' when the masses were wreaking havoc across France. Being a member of the bourgeoisie this situation worried Le Bon and he wanted to cure the disorders brought about by the masses. He found the answer in psychology and the discovery of 'a crowd soul'. Le Bon, in his work, rejected all three of the popular views of the time that the crowd was mad, criminal or antisocial and mainly inhabited by the people at the lower end of the social spectrum for the idea that a man, irrelevant of his social standing, once in a group would lose his personal characteristics and the personalities in the group would fuse together. ...read more.

Middle

They found that the less individual subjects viewed themselves and each other the more 'rash and daring' were their contributions to the conversation. Singer, Brush and Lublin (1965) conducted a study where subjects had to talk about erotic literature. They found that those wearing lab coats and thus seen as non-identifiable used more obscene language than the more identifiable subjects. Both of these studies demonstrate that people, when de-individuated will behave differently and Singer attributed theses finding to reduced feelings of self-consciousness and distinctiveness. Le Bon (1985) went on to say that people would behave in more extreme ways in crowds because they lose their sense of identity. Zimbardo believes that the crowd provides a 'cloak of anonymity' and diffuses personal responsibility for the consequences of an individual's actions. He details two types of behaviour, individuated, when behaviour is rational, controlled and consistent with personal norms and de-individuated behaviour, which acts on primitive impulses, is anti social, unrestrained. He believes that this behaviour is caused by being a member of a crowd or when wearing a uniform as loss of individual identity and a reduced concern for social evaluation. Zimbardo (1969) has carried out several experiments on de-individuation and anonymity. One experiment showed that de-individuated people (in this case they were dressed in lab coats and hoods) had a stronger tendency towards aggressive behaviour (e.g. total duration of shocking was twice as much for the de-individuated group compared to the identifiable condition). Another experiment that Diener (1976) made in the same area was on a group of Belgian soldiers. However, the result was the reverse- the soldiers had a shorter shocking time than the 'normal' people did. ...read more.

Conclusion

The third idea in social identity theory is the idea of comparison. This is when we evaluate ourselves in relation to others. By looking to others groups we can higher our self-esteem, which in turn leads to a positive image of the self, which is essential to healthy functioning. By identifying ourselves as being in a group we then learn the norms of that group and can find out what the limits of the group are. In order to test his theory, Reicher conducted some experiments to test how attitudes change when social identity is prevalent. One of his investigations found that social science students were more antivivisection and science students more pro-vivisection when they were divided in their respective subject groups than when they were mixed together. He found that personal identity is replaced in a group situation by social identity. Reicher also analysed data from the St. Paul's riots which occurred in Bristol and found that people identified with one another and because of this they adhered to the norms of the group because they were adopted as their own. In conclusion, it seems that older theories such as Le Bon and Freud are relevant today as they provide a strong theoretical basis from which we can develop our own theories of the crowd. However, the very theoretical nature of them is what makes the more recent theories much viable and realistic as both Freud and Le Bon use concepts that we will never be able to verify such as the unconscious mind. In contrast, more recent studies are supported with empirical evidence that can lead to only one conclusion, they are better theories. The nature of crowds however, means that future research will be difficult to undertake, as studies cannot be recreated in the lab due to the sheer volume of people needed. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Social Theory section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Social Theory essays

  1. Is it nature or nurture that allows some people to succeed while others fail? ...

    Their seat on the exchange is repossessed and all assets of Duke & Duke are taken from them to pay for the tremendous amount of stock they purchased. The poor man learned that money is not necessarily the answer to all his problems, and the rich man learned the true value of a dollar.

  2. Root causes of terrorism. Analysts such as Tore Bjorgo argue that terrorism is ...

    Firstly, due to a an unstable political system, an environment that lacks enforcement, accountability and monitoring capacity is created (Bjorgo, 2005). The second reason that attracts terrorists to politically instable states is they themselves are political actors who are reacting to some established order (Bjorgo, 2005).

  1. Law is an institution of the most pernicious tendency. (Godwin) Should we agree with ...

    The home office also stated that they aim to reduce this even more. Taking this into account, authority could be said to be more important than freedom, if law aims to reduce crime rates and therefore protecting those who are at harm.

  2. Critically consider the manifest and latent functions of schooling.

    with anxiety and boredom, destructive of curiosity and imagination; in short, anti-educational" (Dore, 1976, p. ix). In society today there is more emphasis on getting that certain grade or qualification or certificate to further career prospects. However, there are not enough jobs for the people that are obtaining all these

  1. Citizenship as a fluid and Contested concept.

    Lister (1998) presents an interesting comparison on the fluid state in which the essence of citizenship finds itself. Two primary pillars on which the concept seems to be defined are the presence of a 'rights-based' and an 'obligations based' role of the person living in the society, and the presence of citizenship as both an exclusion and an inclusion phenomenon.

  2. Critically discuss focaults views on normal and abnormal

    In the early work, he sometimes gives a sense that power somehow inheres in institutions themselves rather than in the individuals that make those institutions function. (www.cla.purdue.edu) Power is a relationship between people in which one affects another's actions (Ritzer, 1995).

  1. Social Psychology Lab Report. The Main Themes for University Students in Their Usage ...

    students is that they can easier contact people who use the same sites as them without having many personal details, for example if a student needed to contact another student in their class about an assignment they can simply search for their name on Facebook and recognise them through their profile or display picture.

  2. With a focus on gender or race, discuss whether the criminal justice system is ...

    A 1993 survey showed that nearly all the police women who took part in the survey had received some form of sexual harassment from fellow male officers. There were also reports that 3 out of 10 had been subjected to unwanted touching and to offensive insults.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work