Part 1: Essay
This essay will explore how deindividuation theory might explain the looting behaviour that can sometimes accompany crowd riots. The core concepts and assumptions of the deindividuation theory will be critically evaluated. The potential strengths and limitations of this theory will be considered, as an explanation of crowd looting. The social identity approach on crowd behaviour will be used in contrast of the deindividuation approach. Research and evidence will be used from social psychology to formulate an argument.
Deindividuation theory has been used to understand the transformation of the individual's behaviour when part of a crowd. Gustav Le Bon (1885) was the first to recognise how an individual's behaviour changes when in a crowd. He proposed the more anonymous the crowd, the greater the threat of extreme action. Le Bon developed the contagion theory, to explain crowd action. He believed that once submerged in a group, a collective mind is put in place of the individuals. Effectively, a single mind is subjected. Le Bon stated that all men are born with general qualities, such as passions and instincts, which become common property when the group mind takes over. Contagion then causes crowd members to experience similar thoughts and emotions. Crowds were supposedly intellectually inferior, driven by emotion and instinct, free of civilised restraint. Their behaviour was seen as akin to women, children and savages. This state was named deindividuation by Festinger et al., (1952). Le Bon effectively suggests that individuals become deindividuated when placed in situations involving anonymity, contagion and suggestibility. Le Bon’s theory therefore explains how the looting behaviour that can sometimes accompany crowd riots that can occur. Subsequent studies of crowds support some of Le Bon's arguments, although the extremity of the action could depend on the type of crowd being observed. A weakness of Le Bon’s theory is that it has a bias...
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