The Psychology of the Mob Mentality

With the recent riots in London, Manchester, Birmingham, and other locations, it is an apt time to examine crowd behaviour and the ‘mob mentality.’

So, what causes mob mentality?

There are a number of explanations for mob mentality within social psychology. These include:

Deindividuation – when people are part of a group, they experience a loss of self-awareness.

Identity – when people are part of a group, they can lose their sense of individual identity.

Emotions – being part of a group can lead to heightened emotional states, be that excitement, anger, hostility, etc.

Acceptability – behaviours that are usually seen as unacceptable suddenly become acceptable when others within a group are seen to be carrying them out.

Anonymity – people feel anonymous within a large group, which reduces their sense of responsibility and accountability.

Diffusion of Responsibility – being part of a group creates the perception that violent or unacceptable behaviour is not a a personal responsibility but a group responsibility.

The larger the group or crowd, the more likely that there will be deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility.

It is generally believed that everyone is capable of this mob mentality.  However, research does suggest that some personalities or circumstances make it more likely.  For example:

  • Adolescents who lack a stable family can gain a sense of identity when part of a group.

  • People are more likely to take part in looting during times of hardship.

  • Particularly emotional events such as football matches.

My thoughts are with all who have been affected by these horrendous circumstances.

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Categories: Psychology

Tags: , ,

3 replies

  1. Quite interesting – I just so happen to be studying the topic of Social Psychology in my Psych class right now. It’s very sad that I have a current ongoing event in which I can relate what I am studying to.

    I can only hope that the people of England “snap out of it” in time before anymore harm comes of their country and fellow citizens. If only they would realize that they are far more guilty of crimes at this point, than the one perceived “wrong-doing” committed by the police that spurned this whole riot in the first place.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts iamneptune. Social psychology is fascinating. The behaviour that is described here can also explain some of our behaviours during events such as January sales! People lose all rationality and follow the crowd.

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