After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Meaning of Crowd 2. Types of Crowds 3. Characteristics.
Meaning of Crowd:
A crowd is said to be a collection of individuals who are all attending to some common objects, their reaction being of a simple prepotent sort and it is accompanied by some strong emotional responses. The collection of human beings in the market, on the road, near a magic show, in front of the cinema hall, marriage ceremony or meeting hall is designated as a crowd.
According to Kimballyoung “A crowd is a gathering of considerable number of persons around a centre or point of common attention.” Here all the people are concerned with each other directly and face to face. In a crowd social stimulation is direct, whereas in a coacting group (like a meeting) all the people attend to the main object or stimulus, that is the lecture, without attending to each other.
A class room lecture is also a coacting group. Thus, in a coacting group the stimulus is contributory and all people are concerned with one stimulus.
Types of Crowds:
Brown has classified varieties crowds into two types, active (mobs) crowd and passive crowd or the audience. The definition of Kimballyoung includes active crowds and passive crowds or mobs and audiences.
An audience is defined as an institutionalized form of crowd. It is a passive crowd. Sometimes some lectures by eminent personalities are arranged and announced. So people gather together to hear the lectures. There is also face to face and shoulder to shoulder contact.
But here we do not have close contact or movement as found in a crowd. No backward or forward movement is found as everything has been arranged in an orderly manner and the seats are also arranged for all the persons. But with regard to the lecture there is a face to face contact.
In an audience there is a definite and specific purpose in view. The purpose here is that people want to listen to a particular lecture. It meets at a predetermined time and place. But this is not found in a crowd. Though in an audience interaction takes place between different members such interaction is different from the interaction taking place in an active crowd.
The nature of contact between an audience and a crowd may be same but the contact is more in case of an action crowd. In an audience, there is organisation which works like an institution. But this is absent in an active crowd. Thus, even though the individual remains same, because of the differences in the characteristics of an audience and an active crowd, difference is found in their behaviour.
(ii) Active Crowd or Mob:
People gathering in a musical function is a passive crowd. But, this passive crowd can turn to an active crowd or mob at any moment. When the hall is very small and a large number of persons have turned up to attend the musical show, there is enough disturbance due to want of space and so it turns to a mob where people start throwing chairs, tables on the dias, at other audiences, creating utter confusion and there is a lot of emotional reaction.
On the other hand, a mob or an active crowd can turn to an audience or passive crowd when someone, may be the leader stands up to pacify the members or explains the purpose and aim for which the crowd has gathered. Thus, there is always a switch over from audience behaviour to mob behaviour and mob behaviour to audience behaviour.
In action crowd or a mob certain deep lying unconscious desires and emotions are released through action. Here love, fear, aggression and rage etc. emerge.
The action crowd can again be
(a) Mob crowd
(b) Panic Crowd.
In a mob like attacking the employer by the employees, there is more irrationality, violence and fighting and less responsibility, less social control. In a panic crowd like fire or danger like train accident, attack, there is always a flight from the centre. When the enemy is nearer panic is found among soldiers.
Action crowd can also be divided into attack, rage and flight, fear types. In action crowd all the elemental motive of the individual in their raw form are expressed. Socialized motives and social values are thrown to the background, for the time being.
More shoulder to shoulder physical contact is found in an action crowd as well as in a mob. Backward and forward movements are also more found in an action crowd than in a passive crowd or audience. In the passive crowd practically, there is no action, no physical activity, no forward and backward movement, like the crowd gathering near a magic show, musical night, street corner dance, monkey dance etc.
Characteristics of Crowd:
In a general way, crowd behaviour has certain characteristics. LeBon. Martin, McDougall and Freud etc. have contributed to the description of various characteristics of crowd behaviour.
They are explained below:
Contrary to a psychological group which is more or less permanent a crowd is quite temporary or short lived. Suppose an accident has taken place on the main road of a crowded market place. Large number of people who have come for purchases etc. gather together and form a crowd.
After the wounded persons are carried to the hospital, the crowd disperses and disintegrates. Several such examples in our day to day life can be cited to explain the transitory nature of crowd behaviour.
(ii) Shoulder to shoulder Contact:
In a crowd there is more physical contract than a group. In comparison to a group, a passive crowd or an audience in active crowd there is greater shoulder to shoulder contact and forward and backward movement.
Suppose some houses in a village have caught fire and the people are trying to extinguish the fire. Here, there is a lot of forward and backward movement. People who are in the fringe try to move up to the centre and those in centre try come back to fringe.
(iii) Common and Primary Motivation:
A sense of mass strength is found in a crowd situation from the common motivation of the crowd members. When the attention is more similar, the focus of attention is greater and so there is more interaction as everyone would try to be nearer to the focus of attention.
A crowd has been formed when a thief has been caught by the local people. Those who gathered to see the thief go to the centre and after viewing it come back to the fringe and vice versa.
In the process of interaction, all the psychological functions like perception, learning, thinking, emotion and motivation are involved. They are also influenced by the behaviour of the group in a greater or lesser degree. As a result, the global behaviour of the group members show a sudden change.
(v) Backward and Forward Movement:
In a crowd, there is constant forward and backward movement. Some are at the fringe and some are at the centre. Those who are at the fringe are not the active members of the crowd. They are called passive onlookers. However, those who are in the centre, are actually interested with the group goal and are called more active members.
But, there is always a change in the position of the members of the crowd. Those who are in the fringe may come forward i.e., to the centre if they are more interested to take active part. Hence in a crowd backward and forward movement takes place constantly.
Interaction between the members of the centre and fringe occurs. Backward and forward movement and shoulder to shoulder contact etc. are more found in an action crowd like in a situation of panic, fire sudden accident and death, riots etc. In an action crowd, love, fear, rage and aggression are more often expressed.
(vi) Suggestion and Imitation:
Every member of an action crowd is particularly influenced by what others in the crowd do and accordingly imitates others in the crowd. When people see others running towards a gathering even without knowing what has happened, and without even ascertaining what is the matter, why people have gathered, they also run.
This is due to the effect of suggestion. They imitate them and behave in a similar way. After some students have gathered near the principal’s office on a very small problem, other students hear or see them and they also start running there.
When they find some of their friends scolding and misbehaving with the principal, they also start doing the same, without even knowing what’s the matter. Then one student starts throwing a chair in the room and at once all members of the crowd start breaking the tables, chairs and other valuables in the office of the principal being guided by the principle of suggestion and imitation.
However, according to Turner (1964), excitement and suggestibility are only of secondary influence in crowd behaviour. Rather he says that a person acts in a crowd the way he does because he believes that it is the appropriate and required thing to do.
(vii) Mental Homogeneity:
The members of an active crowd show a similarity in feelings, thought and action even though they come from different socio-economic and educational background. This uniformity in behaviour irrespective of difference in I.Q., education and occupation led LeBon to coin the concept of ‘group mind’. LeBon said that the individual in a crowd looses his originality, his own personality and acts like machine.
The way a person reacts to the actions of another also determines his reactions in a crowd situation.
Heider (1958) holds that a prominent bias in social perception is the tendency to see persons and not situations as the cause of action. Too little importance is attached to the situation and too much to the behaviour and its effects.
(viii) Social Facilitation:
The activity of each member in an active crowd is facilitated and influenced by other members of the crowd. Here, sometimes they loose their usual self, rational behaviour and behave in a very emotional, irresponsible manner without knowing what is wrong and what is right.
The sights and sounds of other people in the crowd facilitate and increase the response of group members. The example of “College strike” can explain the above point. It is held by some that low status persons are more susceptible to persuasion.
(ix) Irrationality and Heightened Emotionality:
The members of an action crowd or mob are found to be most intolerant, irrational, indisciplined and unreasonable. That reasoning which suits their purpose at the very moment is only utilized. The advantages and disadvantages, the faults and repercussions of this behaviour is never examined in a cool and rational manner.
Heightened emotionality and irrationality go together. Someone who is extremely angry behaves in a very unreasonable way at that single moment. Similarly, someone even when alone and overpowered’ by anger, fear or jealousy shame or joy behaves in a very irrational manner. He cannot find the faults and basis in his action at that time. In a crowd situation this is aggravated because of the sense of facilitation.
(x) Diminished Sense of Responsibility:
In an action crowd situation, the sense of responsibility decreases than when one is alone or in a group. The sense of morality, reasoning, justice also decreases. We have seen individuals behaving in the most irresponsible way when there is communal riot and law and order problem as it is felt by each member that the responsibility will be divided in case of any problem in the future.
Labourers in a factory or students in a college during strike are found to behave in irresponsible manner. It is found that when the individual is in a mob situation the normal social controls inhibiting violence, destruction and verbal aggression cease to operate. Here, strong emotion determines and controls one’s behaviour and not social value and controls like morality, justice, nonviolence, tolerance etc.
(xi) Sense of Power:
During action crowd or mob behaviour the members of the crowd are so much overwhelmed by the feeling of power that they feel as if they are above law and nobody can take any action against them for what they are doing. They feel that they are capable of doing anything to achieve this goal and nobody can stop them from doing it. Thus, operation of all the social values taught through the process of socialization temporarily come to a stand-still.
(xii) Sense of Anonymity:
Why all the above properties of a crowd are found among the crowd members in a mob or action crowd? The answer is very simple. The sense of anonymity plays a very vital role in an action crowd. Every member feels that it is the group as a whole which will be responsible for the indiscipline and illegal, immoral actions going against the social norms, moral and social values.
If any problem arises in future, everybody will be subjected to it. This feeling decreases the sense of responsibility. Each person feels secure and thinks that he will not be detected, punished or penalized because so many people are showing similar behaviour. Interestingly, most of the people in a crowd usually do not know each other.
Hence, they feel quite confident and think that since they are strangers no one will be able to detect them. Since the persons are strangers and cannot be singled out and held responsible, the sense of responsibility is loosened. So they are not afraid to act in a destructive manner.
(xiii) Role of a Leader:
In a crowd, leader plays a very significant role. Particularly in mob, activity or action crowd the prestige, power and personality of the leader is very much demonstrated. The members of the crowd identify with the leader and behave according to the direction of the leader. Hence, the role of the leader is of tremendous importance in an action crowd.
The leader suggests as well as directs. A crowd cannot operate unless there is a leader. When the leader disappears from a mob situation or goes underground, a new leader may emerge for the time being otherwise the crowd will definitely disintegrate.
In sum, by observing the behaviour of the people emerging from a cinema hall, a theatre, a meeting place or a magic show some rather general laws concerning the density of the crowd at various moments after the end of the show, its changing continuation, its mode of movement and physical obstacles etc. can be stated.
The total behaviour of the persons emerging from a crowd situation can indicate the behaviour of the crowd and how they can change under changed circumstances without any specific attention to individuals within the crowd.
According to Kretch and Crutchfield to get the underlying explanation of crowd behaviour one has to study the behaviour of the individual crowd member. Prediction of crowd behaviour in new situations can be possible if study of individual behaviour in a crowd is possible.
In human crowds, there is less homogeneity. In a theatre crowd, there are certain reversed currents in the general movement out of the theatre as may be some women have left their vanity bags inside the theatre hall. Here, the more women in the crowd, the greater is the reversed currents.
Perceptual selectivity will also play an important role. Men will attend to young and beautiful women more in a cinema hall. To predict the crowd movements thus, one has to know something about the perceptions, goals, and past experiences of the individual men comprising the crowd.
Because of the concept of individual difference the laws of crowd behaviour will be much more complex than the infrahuman ones. Somewhat more stereotyped modes of interpersonal contacts within any one of the social groups is the basic characteristic of a human crowd which an infra human crowd does not have.
Army is a good example of complex human group. It is a group having structured groups within it and the officers, and men, different ranks among the officers and different established functions among them. The interpersonal relationship among these members are quite fairly well formalized and codified.