How Might Deindividuation Theory Explain the Looting Behaviour That Sometimes Accompanies Crowd Riots? What Are the Strengths and Limitations of This Kind of Approach to Understanding Collective Behaviour?

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  • Topic: Theory, Crowd psychology, Riot
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  • Published : April 7, 2013
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How might deindividuation theory explain the looting behaviour that sometimes accompanies crowd riots? What are the strengths and limitations of this kind of approach to understanding collective behaviour?

In this essay I will firstly describe what the deindividuation theory is and the approaches of different psychologists who have molded and formed this theory. I will then explain how this theory can shed light on why the looting in 2011 took place and how this theory can give evidence to why it happened. I will then describe the evidence that these psychologist have used back up their theory and give strength to their approach of collective behaviour. Finally I will look into an alternative theory which could also explain the behaviour of looting and then conclude my findings.

Festinger, Pepitone and Newcomb (1952) first formulated the theory of deindividuation when they were looking into understanding the individual-group relationship. The theory argues that once an individual is in a group they feel that they aren’t being personally noticed and therefore an increased sense of anonymity. This perception of one’s self can then lead to a decreased amount of inhibitions causing impulsive behaviour relative to the specific situation.

Zimbardo (1969) contributed further to this theory looking specifically at the relationship between anonymity and aggression. He argued that violence was more likely in a group as the moral implications were spread across the whole group rather than directly on the individual, this diffuses the individuals responsibility.

An alternative view of deindividuation from Deiner (1980) and Prentice-Dunn and Rogers (1982) argues that just because an individual is anonymous within a group does not necessarily lead to deindividuation. Other factors and feeling need to be present such as a lack of self. The reasoning behind this comes from a bank robber who wears a mask and therefore anonymous still is very much aware of their...
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