Series -Psychology / Crowd Psychology(3)

Having listed the related concepts on Crowd – its time to bring it to logical end.

What Game Theory has to say about – Crowding !

It’s an attempt to explain crowds in individualistic terms. Olson (1965 ) in his classic, “The Logic of Collective Action”, argued, that crowd members act as Classic utility Maximizers seeking to increase benefits over costs to the individual self but under conditions of altered contingencies. The most consistent champion of this approach has been Richard Berk.

His ‘ Rational Calculus Model ‘ of Crowd Action involved Five Steps.

crHence, we can say that the probability of an act is a joint function of payoff and perceived probability of support. So, where one perceives mass support, one will be more likely to carry out actions/ behavioural choices which one would not have dared to act alone. The effect of crowd is therefore to transform behaviour while maintaining the individual standards and tendencies on which behaviour is based.

Now lets see few concrete terms ( focussing more on Indian Context ):


1. MOB – Active crowd is called mob.

It is further divided into:

a. Aggressive mob: It is violent in nature and focused outwardly.

b. Escapist mob: When a gathering ( large ) is panicked and tries to escape the threatening situation.

2. AUDIENCE – Passive crowd is generally termed as Audience.

In Indian context, the underlying theme behind conflict and violence is social change. India is undergoing adaptive changes which aim at restructuring the society at structural and functional level. It involves changes in existing equations between different social groups as well as changes in behaviour patterns, value systems and attitudinal positions.

However, our cultural continuity with the past is very strong and any progressive ideology usually does not bring about basic transformation. It occurs through selective adaptation.

In a multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society like India, there are various markers of social identity like caste, class, language, region, religion which all serve to provide multiple identities to groups and individuals. Often it works at cross purposes with each other and also with common identity.

This brings about selectivity in perception and lack of perspective taking which paves way for intolerance and it finds expression in aggression and violence. It is further fuelled by relative deprivation, resource competition and power differentials.

With this, let us now try to find out “Psychological Explanations” to recent happenings, rather unfortunate mis-happenings, of mob violence in India.

1. POLICE VERSUS THE CROWD IN KASHMIR The Elaborated Social Identity Model by Reicher (1999)

Public disorder is described in terms of asymmetric relationships between groups, implying that differing perceptions of the same social context are held by the two groups, which can lead to an increased negative tension between ” us versus them “.  Thus, intervention by the police is regarded as inappropriate by the public and violent behaviour is the outcome.

The processes of social identity and self-categorisation explain how a person will perceive reality and act. Schreiber (2010)

2. MOB LYNCHING IN DADRI, DAIMABAD AND JHARKHAND – The Initiation-Escalation Model of Collective Violence by Adang (2010)

The escalation of collective violence, i.e. more people getting involved, is explained by a combination of two different mechanisms:

a. “Risk perception” involves a mechanism that describes potential escalation based on the perceived risk or opportunity . Especially young adult males have the tendency to take more risks and to be violent, an expression of ‘the young male syndrome’. These young males actively seek out opportunities to confront rival groups and they reduce their perception of risks by being together and acting with their mates (Wilson & Daly, 1985).

b. The “Us versus Them” antagonism involves the perception of one’s own group (the in-group) relative to another group (the out-group).

These observations provided evidence for the absence of irrationality in the behaviour individuals show. Rather, people behave in a way that is meaningful for themselves.


1. DEINDIVIDUATION: People distance themselves from their personal identities which reduces their concern for social evaluation. Lack of restraint increases individual’s sensitivity to the environment and lessens rational thought processes, which can lead to antisocial behaviour.

2. DIFFUSION OF RESPONSIBILITY: It is a phenomenon wherein in the presence of others a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction i.e. the responsibility is diffused within the group.

3. CONFORMITY PRESSURE: The followers form the majority of the mob. Sherif and Asch in their studies have found that these people tend to be creatures of conformity that are heavily influenced by the opinions of others. The herd mentality prevails and collective action is blindly followed.

4. ANONYMITY: The crowd does not have a face or a name. Anonymity, group unity, and arousal can weaken the feeling of guilt and shame.

5. PURSUATION: Crowd members are further convinced by the persuasive tendency that if everyone in the mob is acting in such-and-such a manner, then it cannot be wrong. This sustains group action.

6. SOCIAL IDENTITY: holds that the crowd is a product of the coming together of like-minded individuals all of whom belong to various conflicting groups. The values of that group dictate crowd action. The individuals assume a new social identity as a member of the crowd.

7. SCAPEGOATING: A scapegoat is person or group that is forced to take the blame for happenings that are not their fault. People may be prejudiced towards the group they dislike and set them as their target for venting out anger.

8. STEREOTYPING: A stereotype is a preconceived notion, especially about a group of people. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality but negative stereotype predisposes an individual or group to violent action.

9. INGROUP BIAS: It is the tendency to favour one’s own group. Each perceive their own group(In-group)as being the “right” and “good” group, while the other group (Out-group) as “bad” and “evil’ . The out group is perceived negatively and given worse treatment.

10. JUST WORLD FALLACY: It is a cognitive bias and a belief that a person or group’s actions are inherently inclined to bring morally fair consequences to the evil actions of the other person or group.


After analysing the dynamics of crowd psychology, we can now connect the threads and create a well knitted picture of the ongoing societal happenings.

It is essential that various social groups constituting the society are able to develop a set of common attitudes, aspirations and belief system along with shared and mutually agreed upon goals and also the manner in which these goals can be pursued. Emotional and psychological integration is the underlying key which can help groups retain their respective identity and bind them together with a common identity. Responsible and equitable action of state machinery and impartial dispute resolution by judiciary would increase the legitimacy of these institutions and promote social integration. Only Then the collective intellect and collective energy of the crowd can be put to constructive use.

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