The following points highlight the four important theories of crowd behaviour. The theories are: 1. Crowd Mind Theory 2. The Induced Emotion Theory 3. Social Facilitation Theory 4. Unconscious Induction Theory.
Theory # 1. Crowd Mind Theory:
LeBon has put forth some important point to explain the causes of action crowd or mob. He holds that the origin of crowd lies in the formation of a kind of collective mind or crowd mind which makes them feel and act in a manner quite different from that in which each individual of them would feel, think and act were he in a state of isolation.
So, according to psychologists in favour of crowd mind it is due to the influence of a group or collective mind which arises when some people gather together with a common motivation, common goal or common purpose. They further argue that when an individual is a member of a particular crowd, he looses his personal consciousness.
The sense of responsibility is loosened and there is a rise of common crowd consciousness and lapse of personal consciousness. But, people object to this by saying that consciousness depends upon the function of the neural structure and nervous systems are possessed by individuals. So, how a crowd can have a nervous system to have consciousness?
LeBon also holds that the behaviour and actions of the crowd is guided by the order or direction of the leader. He gave many illustrations from French revolution to explain his points. But, he has been criticised on the ground that only gathering or aggregation of some people with a common motivation will not lead to a crowd behaviour or crowd mind.
LeBon’s view is further criticised on the ground that the sensation and feelings of an individual in a crowd is in no way different from the sensation and feelings when he is in a lone situation. The crowd as such has no feeling and experience of an isolated type.
The difference in behaviour, they say is not due to crowd mind or crowd consciousness but due to the difference in the situation i.e., the influence of the crowd situation or environment brings a change in behaviour. Further, because of similarity of perception and motivation there is similarity in behaviour. Some people may join a crowd but may remain in the fringe as passive onlookers without taking any active part.
Those individuals who are oppressed for a long time, whose desires for love and lust, power, prestige and recognition, sympathy and understanding are repressed and suppressed they take major part in a crowd behaviour. Thus, it is said that the individual in a crowd behaves just as he would behave alone. The behaviour which he would have shown when alone is exaggerated in a crowd situation.
Thus, it appears that LeBon has neglected the individual factor in crowd behaviour. According to Allport it is the individual whose response provides the motive for collective behaviour and limits its direction. Of course, action of an individual is facilitated and intensified through the presence of the crowd but it originates in the drive of the individual.
Theory # 2. The Induced Emotion Theory:
Supported by McDougall the ‘Induced Emotional Theory’ of crowd holds that the behaviour of an individual in a crowd is intensified than when he is alone. Crowd members stimulate each other which heightens and intensifies the responses of each individual. Thus, emotion is induced in a crowd situation which leads to all sorts of irresponsible behaviour and indiscipline.
This theory have been supported by the “sympathetic induction of emotion” concept advanced by McDougall which suggests that the emotion of one person makes another emotional and influences him. When we find, the bride is crying at the time of leaving her parents’ place, we start crying.
Similarly, when you have gone to console your friend whose father has expired, you start crying seeing him crying. Likewise in a crowd situation the hot slogans, fire brand lectures and the irrational behaviour make others present emotional and encourage them to behave in an emotional manner.
But, it is argued that this theory overlooks the response within the individual himself.
Theory # 3. Social Facilitation Theory:
With reference to the cause of crowd behaviour some argue that the emotional behaviour of one individual contributes to the emotional response of another but it did not induce it. This also refers to the social facilitation theory or circular reaction theory of crowd advanced by Allport.
Those who support this theory say that sometimes we laugh in a crowd situation when others laugh not knowing the real reasons. Thus, it is a response in a group created by a group.
However, it is viewed by Allport that the origin of crowd response is not by crowd members and the stimulus situation but it is the prepotent trend of the individual himself. But, undoubtedly such behaviour is heightened by the crowd stimulus and its members. The heightening of emotions make each person highly suggestible and set to imitate the action of others.
Thus, F.H. Allport observes “The increase in the violence of emotion and action in crowd is due to the effect of behaviour stimuli, from others in releasing and reinforcing these prepared response of individuals.”
Allport has further used the concept of impression of universality to explain the tendency for individuals to adopt the morality of the mob. Individual member in the crowd feels that since every one present is shouting, throwing things here and there, destroying the belongings inside a room, this action is right.
He never thinks that this behaviour is irrational, illegal or against basic human values and discipline. This functions as a temporary idea, social norm. On the contrary, who does not respect this temporary social norm, he can never behave irrationally in a crowd situation. He will only be a passive onlooker.
Just like during war everyone feels that killing the enemy is the right action, similarly in a mob or action crowd the active members feel that their action is justified in the interest of the organisation, public or nation.
When people feel that the law and order authorities are not doing their job in the right earnest, sometimes they are compelled to take the law into their own hands and behave in a manner which is irrational and indisciplined in the eyes of law and society.
Theory # 4. Unconscious Induction Theory:
Jung and Martin have tried to explain cause of crowd behaviour by Freudian principle. Jung explained the unity and identically of crowd by making a reference to the unconscious racial mind or collective unconscious.
According to this concept every individual possesses the innate ability for mob behaviour. But these potentialities and impulses are controlled and regulated by the process of socialization, social conditioning and social training.
These inhibitions are removed, suppressions and repressions come to the forefront and the unconscious impulses like violence, irrationality, aggressiveness, desire to kill and destroy get a chance for free operation in a crowd situation. The unconscious, irrational, primitive impulse get an upper hand and socialization becomes ineffective for the time being. Miller and Dollard also support this view.
Martin has observed that in a crowd, the primitive ego believes its aim and whish by actually gaining the assent and support of a section of the society. The immediate social environment is all pulled in the same direction as the unconscious desire.
He further said that the crowd is always formed for the unconscious purpose of relaxing the social control by mechanisms which mutually justify such antisocial conduct on the part of the members of the crowd.
The unconscious, antisocial and aggressive urges which under normal situation do not get a chance to come up because of social restriction and social values, come up in a crowd as the responsibility is less here. Though, this theory is not very much different from the former theory, Martin and others have emphasized the role of repression and conscious desires in crowd behaviour.
They argue that the real motives for the actions of a crowd is not known. It is unconscious. Hence substituted rationalized motives and other defence mechanisms are used in order to satisfy the ego and the superego.
In other words, repressed and suppressed desires of the individual are satisfied unconsciously through various unsuccessful defence mechanisms like aggression, regression, projection, negativism and reaction formation etc.
According to Turner, (1964) excitement and suggestibility are of secondary influences in a crowd behaviour. Rather a person acts in the crowd situation in the way be believes it is the appropriate and required thing to do. Many crowds sometimes are quite reasonable.
Only mobs are invariably unruly, disorganised, and irrational. But in a mob there may be some sane and disciplined person who give proper guidance to some unruly persons to behave in a more restrained manner.
An overall critical analysis of the different views on crowd behaviour leads one to conclude that mob behaviour is due to the operation of number of factors some of which depend upon the predisposition of the individuals, some of which depend upon the characters of the situation.
It is pertinent to mention here that all individuals of a given area do not join in a crowd at a given situation or point of time. Individuals who come forward to join a crowd on their own initiative have a certain sense of resentment towards the society, a few more frustrations and a few more suppressions and repressions.
Situations at home, in the offices or among the friends circle or elsewhere may have produced certain unconscious and pent up aggressiveness. Generally, such people identify themselves with the crowd situation and actively participate in the crowd behaviour.
People who are frustrated due to rigid socialization process and parental care, excessive control by parents during early childhood, and their dictational attitude without sufficient love and care, people who are suppressed and over controlled by seniors without getting a chance to express their independent view, originality or talents and abilities, people whose desires are obstructed by rigid social conditions and hence suppressed and repressed ordinarily take part in a crowd behaviour.
In a crowd, specially in a mob situation socialization becomes ineffective and the individual is moved by unconscious impulses. Miller and Dollard view that though the response evoked by mob excitement are ready-made, they are not necessarily unconscious.
There is no complete uniformity in crowd behaviour. Many crowd members behave as idle bystanders and passive onlookers whose presence no doubt provides support to the minority who take very active and dominant part in a crowd situation by shouting, becoming violent etc.
However, different facts and observations reveals that a person who is a member of a crowd behaves quite differently from the way he behaves when he is alone or in a group.
Mann (1969) describes how patterned regularities in behaviour and attitudes emerge to regulate the life and form of the overnight queue waiting to buy tickets for a football match or a musical show.
In a crowd which is of course not a mob, sometimes rules emerge to govern the behaviour in public organisations where large number of people come together. For instance, we have seen how people from the crowd come to the rescue of the public and help the law and order authority when there is a traffic jam due to some accidents.
They control and regulate the behaviour of the crowd who have been detained for long hours due to traffic jam.
It is, therefore, justified to say that sometimes individuals are sensitive to the needs and rights of others, sensitive of their own duties to others, even if they are strangers and find out effective arrangements and immediate solutions to problems to prevent disruption, conflict and law and order situations.