Crowd Behaviour


Many people know or think they know how they would behave in a difficult circumstance or situation. But would you really know how you would behave in a crowd?


A good example of this is the riots that took place in the summer of 2011. Would the individuals have behaved in the same way if they were only in a group of people or about 10 people rather than hundreds? Peer pressure is seen at the main motivation with crowd psychology we seem to act like sheep our ‘normal’ behavior doesn’t come into play we just follow what the majority of the crowd are doing.


If you were on a train and you had two more stops till you got off. But everyone got off at the first stop…would you stay on the train of would you get off the train and follow the crowd? It is said that people do keep thinking for themselves and not over reacting, but the crowds do still influences their behavior. By people causing this mass of social change leaves different results. Some devastating like the 2010 riots others like the 9/11 attacks in America where people used their own initiative to save lives and to step out from the shadows of others and help people.


An advantage of going with the crowd is that it gives you added power in the situation that you are in. It makes you into somebody who you were not before and in some cases it can give the bonuses.  A huge disadvantage is that you cannot predict the direction the crowd will go in or the motives of the crowd that you are following. If the crowd leaving the train at the stop earlier were wrong then you to would be better to have followed your own initiative.


Sigmund Freud had a theory on crowd behavior. He suggested that, ‘when a person is in a crowd the act differently to when a person would be thinking individually. The thoughts of the crowd would start to blend and form a new way of thinking and this there for would lead the crowd. Each member’s enthusiasm would be increased as a result, and one becomes less aware of the true nature of one’s actions.’


So what will you do next time the crowd goes one way. Will you follow of will you be the individual thinker?


Dr, Drury, J.(2010)  Doctoral school blog. Crowd behaviour.retrived from (Feb 2012)

Anon. (2011) British Red Cross. Unrest in the city. Retrived from  (Feb 2012)


11 thoughts on “CROWD BEHAVIOUR

  1. katstats says:

    You talk about the advantages of being in a crowd giving added power, but what happens when that power gives the wrong decisions, and as much as I am going to be hated about talking about Derren Brown, I’m just going to do it anyway.
    He experimented crowd behaviour just a few months ago, by setting up an audience to watch an individual throughout their day and decide their life. They could make a good choice for this person, or really mess up their day. The audience were all de-individualised by wearing the same white mask – which leads to diffusion of responsibility – making them feel that they are not at fault with the actions and decisions they make, because its done as a group. This experiment investigated if being in a part of a group effects our sense of right and wrong.
    The end result of this experiment if you didn’t see is that this guy was chosen by the audience to get arrested, be dumped ect ect.. and eventually he got run over. (Which was unknowingly staged to the audience) They then were asked to remove their masks and they felt to blame and like individuals again.
    So what happens when this new form of thinking really hurts someone? This is a major disadvantage to crowd behaviour because it can damage so much.
    Whether your leaving a train, or getting someone arrested and run over. Evidence in history, like the london riots shows that Crowd behaviour is more on the scale of the wrong behaviour, and everyone should be accountable for their actions in that crowd, whether it be 10 people or a 1000. Agreed?

    • riggerb says:

      Thanks for your comment. As much as this seems a good experiment by Derren Brown, you have to remember that this was staged crowd behavior. This does not really happen in real life, therefore i do not believe this to be valid research to add to my blog.

      The riots that happened in the summer were something very unpredictable, people were not there to ‘stage an experiment’ which seems that Derren Brown was.

      Yes people are accountable for their own actions, that’s why with the riots people were convicted for their individual actions. My point is would they have behaved like this in a different circumstance. Would they be reminded of their morals and values in a smaller group.

      thanks for your interesting side of the discussion tho. 🙂

  2. Interesting blog and one which im sure will stimulate plenty of discussion. Im really interested in social psychology having held down a job in a very competative industry and I will elaborate on this a little further into my response. In answer to your question mostly I have a tendency to find myself as an outlier from the group. It isnt that I like controversy, opposition or confrontation. Its just that if I disagree with the majorities behaviour then I will choose not to conform to it out of principle. It has a lot to do with the way I have been raised I guess. I have been brought up not to follow the crowd in situations that may conflict with my morals. But I also appreciate that not following the crowd can also expose one to isolation from a group, so for those who are bothered by such factors they may find that being ostracised may also accompany a different view point and therefore too difficult a pospect to cope with.

    Your blog made me think of the saying “lead by example” which is often quoted in many religious texts. But in contrast, as you have highlighted, it does appear that we are more inclined to remember crowds for their involvement in negative behaviours. I have an interesting article that relates to the issue of crowds, groups and gangs, so I will share a little of it with you. The article refers to the concept of “Deindividuation” and it originates from the work of social psychologist Gustav Le Bon (1895). The theory proposes that in becoming part of a crowd, group or gang, the individual experiences a loss of self-awareness and individuality and consequently this then reduces the persons self regulation and desire to conform to normative values. Its a very interesting theory worth further perusal and so I wont go into too much detail because I may decide to blog about it in future. 😉

    The work place is often the source of many social psychological games mostly resulting from the competativeness that exists. I can remember an incident that occurred when I was working, when the group of ladies that worked on the sewing machines, repeatedly bullied another foreign lady who had recently joined the team. Interestingly when I took each of them independently into the office and inquired about their actions and motives they were totally different individuals compared to when in a group. This has been recognised by most management teams within business and industry consequently the first route of trouble shooting any problems within the abour force will be to divide and conquer.
    My observation and im sure many others will add weight to the theory of deindividuation, loss of personal identity that occurs as a result of group membership.

  3. psuf1d says:

    Firstly, in response to your question, i tend to do both. Although for me it depends on the nature of the situation. If comforming to the crowd would result in me going against my moral views then i am unlikely to follow, but apart from this exception, the majoirty of the time i do.
    I believe that the decision to conform and follow the crowd depends on the situation and the persons perceptions of the situation.
    The theory of convergence suggests that a crowd is formed of like-minded people who share the same views and feelings. This takes the opposite view to Freuds theory on crowd behaviour which states that the behaviour is a product of the crowd, where as the convergence theory states that the behaviour is carried into the crowd by certain individuals.
    According to a study by Burford,B (1990) negative actions of a crowd such as violence cannot be brought about against the will of the crowd, it is the collective decision of the crowd to innitiate violent behaviour, following on from the convergence theory; the crowd forms itself from like-minded individuals.
    In contrast to this, the contagion theory, brought about by Le Bon,G (1895) holds the view that crowds hold a “hypnotic” influence over thier members, who then conform to the emotions of the crowd and lose awareness of thier actions and responsibilites, thus being driven into behaving in an irrational or violent way.An appropriate example here would be that of the conformity of individuals involved in the holocaust, which formed the basis of the well known study of obedience conducted by Stanley Milgram (1963).
    Clearly there are numerous theories that attempt to explain why people conform, personally i beleive it is all down to the individuals morals and feelings towards the situation which is not really going to be something we can ever fully understand or generalise.

  4. csw92 says:

    I believe that an important part of crowd psychology involves the blending of individual’s identity and societal identities. In a sense a person’s social identity can bring together individual identities. The way that’s these identities influence and relate to one another must be very complex. (Stephen reicher, The Psychology Of Crowd Dynamics). In the case of a riot the conditions are so out of the norm that the behavioural norm may be judged by comments and actions of those around. (Reicher, 1982).

  5. bpmjb says:

    Crowd violence has long consumed the interests of social psychologists and furthermore is an important issue in sport psychology in relation to football hooliganism (Hylander & Granström, 2010). Whilst football hooliganism is often explained as a product of situational factors and deindividuation within a crowd, Hiel, Hautman, Ilse and De Clercq (2007) conversely noted that individual attitudes towards violence were the most marked predictor variables of engagement in violence and hooliganism. Whereby they noted individuals with violent dispositions would be more susceptible to engaging in violence irrespective of the behaviour the crowd they identified with were engaging in. Nonetheless exterior to the study of football hooliganism deindividuation and following the crowd can have terrible consequences as demonstrated by military atrocities committed in Bosnia, Rwanda, El Salvador, My Lai and Abu Ghraib (Dutton, Boyanowsky & Bond, 2002). Einolf (2009) noted that American soldiers who tortured Iraqi prisoners detained in Abu Ghraib were encouraged by the social environment, with torture being the norm. Therefore as you have stated one major disadvantage of succumbing to crowd behaviour and adopting crowd norms is that you can never anticipate the direction of the behaviour or what motives the crowd will follow and furthermore whether you will have the strength to disengage in the destructive behaviour.


    Dutton, D., Boyanowsky, E., & Bond, M. (2002). Extreme mass homicide: From massacre to genocide. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 10, 437-473.

    Einolf, J. (2009). Explaining Abu Ghraib: A review essay. Journal of Human Rights, 8, 110-120.

    Hiel, A., Hautman, L., Ilsec, C., & De Clercq, B. (2007). Football hooliganism: Comparing self awareness and social identity theory explanations. Journal of Community and Applied Social Policy, 17, 169-186.

    Hylander, I., & Granström, K. (2010). Organising a peaceful crowd: An example of football match. Qualitative Social Research, 1, 2.

  6. psuf2e says:

    The way an individual behaves in a group situation is dependent on many factors, firstly their level of self efficacy. For instance in your getting off the train example – an individual with high self efficacy, who knows the route well and is sure that their stop is the second, would stay on the train. However a person with low self efficacy, unsure of the stops is more likely to be influenced by other passengers and conform to the majority influence. This suggests that you are more likely to ‘follow the crowd’ when you are in an unfamiliar or stressful situation.
    A meta-analysis by Mann, ‘The Baiting Crowd in Episodes of Suicide,’ involving 21 cases of suicide jumpers, suggested that when crowds are present baiting occurs through deindividuation to influence the person to jump, something which the individuals would not have done when acting alone.
    It is thought that when deindividuated, an individual loses all their self-awareness and becomes one of the crowd with no personal responsibility for the actions of the majority. This was most famously displayed in Zimbardo’s Stanford Prizon Experiment (1969) where the guards were given uniforms and reflective-sunglasses, and prizoners given numbers instead of names to help remove their personal identity. Both sets of participants took on their roles so severely that the experiment had to be ended after only 6 days, and supports the theory that a loss of self-awareness causes aggression in group behaviours.

  7. An individual, as it is colloquially said, knows themselves best. Cognitions, behaviour, feelings and affiliated processes are subject to the individual in the pertinent circumstance. Yet, when the circumstance is one in which the individual is susceptible to authority, peer pressure, and remaining factors outside the realm of their control, it may culminate in atrocities of various sorts: emotional (bullying), physical (extensive bullying and abuse) and property damage (riots), for example. Studies, famously that of Milgram (1974), recorded such susceptibility manifested in monitored behaviours. In regards to your train example, the matter of necessity and urgency of reaching the destination will affect the decision. However, considering the nature of the hypothetical situation, why would an individual succumb to altering their journey, so easily? (What was the origin of the entry’s second example, if may I pry?) Despite the generic explanation provided by Freud, what depth does it carry when considering today’s modernity and pace (refraining from exiting with majority off the train when penalty for work instilled, for example). Evidently, it is a circumstantial issue, in which many logistical errors are simply infused (size of crowd, general demeanour of crowd, to what extent one’s disposition is susceptible in said crowd, etc.). Further supplementary evidence may have been preferred, yet it is still insightful in its brevity.


    Milgram, S. (1974), Obedience to Authority; An Experimental View

  8. Cjh says:

    Interesting Subject, I myself am quite easy going, I do not think I would get off a train if a crowd was doing so but in general I will go with the flow so to speak. However, I definatly would not join in any riots but it does make me wonder what religion is for example is that crowd behaviour???? Maybe an aspect.

    • riggerb says:

      ohh thats an interseting point. i would say yes, i think religion can be crown behaviour. If you look at very formal settings where the church leader is considered to be right or always have the last word (even when they could be wrong) all the congregation follow like sheep, when they could be going against some morals or values that they would have in a different setting.

      i found this link that i thought was interstin, it had a few interesting points on it.

      thanks for your interesting imput 🙂

  9. csw92 says:

    Crowd dynamics has an element of deindividuation as found in the Zimbardo study this can lead to negative consequences fairly quickly. in crowds the benchmark for acceptable behaviour is also removed and so the social reference that people work with has been removed and so it is down to the individual whether to follow their initial social beliefs and actions or follow the one which is presented to them. Most theories describe peoples personal identities as having a big role in shaping their behaviour, Individuals personal identities and standards when access is lost to these it leads to some form of disinhibited or uncontrolled behaviour. So without a social reference and noram context individualas access to there social standards may be inhibited which is a factor influencing behaviour.
    An interesting article is

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