Psychological characteristics of an individual in a crowd
In a crowd, an individual acquires a number of specific psychological characteristics that may be completely out of character if he is in an isolated state. These features have a direct impact on his behavior in the crowd.
A person in a crowd is characterized by the following features:
Anonymity. An important feature of an individual’s self — perception in a crowd is a sense of anonymity. Lost in the “faceless mass”, acting “like everyone else”, a person ceases to be responsible for their own actions. Hence the brutality that usually accompanies the actions of an aggressive crowd. A member of the crowd appears in it as if nameless. This creates a false sense of independence from the organizational ties that a person, wherever he is, is included in the labor collective, family, and other social communities.
Instinct. In a crowd, the individual puts himself at the mercy of such instincts, which, in other situations, he never gives free rein to. This is facilitated by the anonymity and irresponsibility of the individual in the crowd. It decreases the capacity for rational processing of the perceived information. The capacity for observation and criticism that exists in isolated individuals disappears completely in a crowd.
Unconsciousness. The conscious personality disappears and dissolves in the crowd. The predominance of the unconscious personality, the same direction of feelings and ideas determined by suggestion, and the desire to turn immediately into action the suggested ideas are characteristic of the individual in the crowd.
State of unity (Association). In a crowd, the individual feels the power of human Association, which affects him by its presence. The effect of this force is expressed either in supporting and strengthening, or in restraining and suppressing individual behavior. It is known that people in a crowd, feeling the mental pressure of those present, can do (or, on the contrary, not do) what they would never have done (or, on the contrary, what they would certainly have done) under other circumstances. For example, a person cannot, without compromising their own safety, help a victim if the crowd itself is hostile to this victim.
G. Le Bon notes the most striking fact observed in the crowd: whatever the individuals who make up it, their way of life, occupations, characters, and mind, their mere transformation into a crowd is enough to form a kind of collective soul that makes them feel, think, and act completely differently from what each of them felt, thought, and acted individually. There are ideas and feelings that arise and turn into actions only in the individuals who make up the crowd. A spiritualized crowd is a temporary organism, made up of heterogeneous elements that are United together for a moment.
A state of hypnotic trance. The individual, after spending some time among the active crowd, falls into a state that resembles the state of a hypnotized subject. He is no longer aware of his actions. Like a hypnotized person, some abilities disappear, while others reach an extreme degree of tension. Under the influence of suggestion acquired in a crowd, the individual performs actions with an irrepressible impetuosity, which also increases, since the influence of suggestion, which is the same for all, increases by the force of reciprocity.
A sense of irresistible force. The individual in a crowd becomes conscious of an irresistible force by sheer numbers. This consciousness allows him to succumb to hidden instincts: in a crowd, he is not inclined to curb these instincts precisely because the crowd is anonymous and not responsible for anything. The sense of responsibility that usually restrains individuals disappears completely in the crowd — here the concept of impossibility does not exist.
The contagiousness. In a crowd, every action is contagious to such an extent that the individual very easily sacrifices his personal interests to the interest of the crowd. Such behavior is contrary to human nature itself, and therefore a person is capable of it only when he is a part of the crowd.
Amorphism. In the crowd, the individual features of people are completely erased, their originality and personal uniqueness disappear.
The psychic superstructure of each individual is lost, and an amorphous uniformity is revealed and brought to the surface. The behavior of an individual in a crowd is determined by the same attitudes, motivations, and mutual stimulation. Without noticing the shades, the individual in the crowd perceives all the impressions as a whole and does not know any transitions.
Irresponsibility. In a crowd, a person completely loses the sense of responsibility, which is almost always a deterrent for the individual.
Social degradation. Becoming a part of the crowd, a person seems to fall several steps lower in his development. In an isolated position-in ordinary life, he was most likely a cultured person, but in a crowd-he is a barbarian, i.e. an instinctive being. In a crowd, the individual shows a tendency to arbitrariness, violence, and ferocity. A person in a crowd also undergoes a decline in intellectual activity.
The crowd person is also characterized by an increased emotional perception of everything that he sees and hears around him.
The behavior of the crowd shows both ideological influences that are used to prepare certain actions, and changes in mental states that occur under the influence of any specific events or information about them. In the actions of the crowd, both ideological and socio-psychological influences are combined and put into practice, and their interpenetration into the real behavior of people.
Joint feelings, willings and moods are emotionally and ideologically colored and repeatedly reinforced.
The atmosphere of mass hysteria serves as a backdrop for often the most tragic actions.
As already mentioned, one of the types of crowd behavior is panic.
Panic is an emotional state that occurs as a result of either a lack of information about some frightening or incomprehensible situation, or its excessive excess and manifests itself in impulsive actions.
The factors that can cause panic are diverse. Their nature can be physiological, psychological, and socio-psychological. There are known cases of panic in everyday life as a result of disasters and natural disasters. When people panic, they are driven by an unaccountable fear. They lose their composure, solidarity, rush around, do not see a way out of the situation.
Factors that have a particularly strong influence on crowd behavior are as follows.
Superstition — a strengthened false opinion that arises under the influence of fear experienced by a person. However, there may be a superstitious fear, the causes of which are not realized. Many superstitions are associated with belief in something. They affect a wide variety of people, regardless of the level of education and culture. For the most part, superstition is based on fear and it is multiplied in the crowd.
Illusion is a type of false knowledge that is fixed in public opinion. It can be the result of deception of the sense organ. In this context, we are talking about illusions related to the perception of social reality. Social illusion is a kind of a semblance of reality created in the imagination of a person instead of genuine knowledge, which for some reason he does not accept. Ultimately, the basis of the illusion is ignorance, which can produce the most unexpected and undesirable effects when displayed in a crowd.
Prejudice is false knowledge that has become a belief, or rather, a prejudice. Prejudices are active, aggressive, assertive, and fiercely resistant to authentic knowledge. This resistance is so blind that the crowd does not accept any arguments that contradict prejudice.
The psychological nature of prejudice consists in the fact that a person’s memory captures not just an opinion (knowledge), it also preserves the feeling, emotion, and attitude that accompanies this knowledge. As a result, memory is highly selective. Facts and events that contradict a certain opinion are not always analyzed at the level of consciousness. And, of course, they are discarded under the influence of emotions that usually overwhelm, overwhelm the crowd.
In cases where widespread stereotypes of public opinion are saturated with emotions, mass psychosis may occur, during which people are able to commit the most reckless actions, stop being aware of all the consequences of their actions.
Factors that determine the nature of the opinions and beliefs of the crowd are of two kinds: immediate factors and remote factors. The immediate factors that affect the crowd act on the ground already prepared by remote factors — without this, they would not have caused such crushing results, which often amaze a raging crowd. Factors that can impress the crowd itself always appeal to their feelings, not to their reason.
In the next part, we’ll look at crowd control mechanisms.