Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 20: The Behavior of Crowds

Kimball Young

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A. Types of Crowds.

We must differentiate at the outset between a crowd and a mere throng of people. A mass of people passing back and forth in a street does not constitute a crowd, not in our sense of the word. A crowd must have a certain common psychological interest, no matter how temporary. There must be some common focus of attention, some common orientation toward an object of concern by a considerable number of persons. Conway remarks that a crowd can hardly develop unless the number of persons be larger than a jury or a dinner party. In short, a crowd is a psychological formation dependent on common experience and numbers.

We may begin by describing various sorts of crowds; for on this basis we shall better be able to make an analysis of crowd behavior.

1. The Passive Transitory Crowd.— At the simplest level there is the merely temporary, passive crowd which observes men putting up a new sign in front of a theater or which listens to an argument between a motorcycle policeman and a speeding autoist stopped at an intersection. Even a group of people standing in the stern of a vessel may develop the rudimentary features of crowd as they watch a passing boat or a school of fish in the wake of the vessel. In none of these situations is it necessary that there be any conversation among the members of the crowd. There is common interest and an incipient crowd formation in the spatial sense.

Another type of street crowd is illustrated by the mere suggestiveness of looking at some particular object. The following anecdote was told by a somewhat sophomoric American tourist:

One of our favorite stunts was for two or three of us to wander along the busy streets of London or Berlin in the evening and to stop suddenly, gaze earnestly into some shop window, and jabber violently about some supposedly interesting object on display. Gradually other passers-by would be attracted. The more inquisitive would peer around us or over our shoulders. Others would join

(506) them, and soon quite a crowd would gather, each person trying to see what it was all about and pushing and shoving in order to see better. At about this point we would allow ourselves to be pushed aside. We would then slip across the street to watch the performance. Sometimes a chance crowd of this sort would persist for several minutes before finally dissolving.

The mere sight of other people peering into holes, over fences, at near-by or far-away objects excites, probably through our conditioned reactions, like responses in us. We have a curious feeling, in the famous words of Mr. Micawber, that "something is about to turn up" and so we look too. A throng of country folk in town for the circus has been known to stand and gaze into the clouds for a long time because a couple of wags began peering upward, probably with binoculars, and talking about a balloon. As they crane their necks somebody comments on seeing the speck "way up there," or remarks how it has "passed behind that cloud."

These early conditionings of curiosity, of expectancy, have been exploited by all sorts of crowd controllers— political orators, sleight of hand artists, mob leaders, and respectable advertising managers. The circus barker exploits them to inveigle a crowd into his show.

In these situations the stimulus is not particularly significant for the individuals, and the whole configuration of the crowd is brief and impermanent. There are other types of rudimentary crowds in which the novel situation is more distinctive and in which antagonistic responses are set up.

2. The Aggressive Transitory Crowd.— The reactions of a group of passengers to stimuli of danger on an ocean liner which has met with an accident would constitute more antagonistic crowd responses. If a number of immigrants who could not communicate except within their family groups were confronted with a fire or other accident on shipboard, a crowd would be formed, although the common denominator would be rudimentary emotional reactions and communication reduced to bodily gestures. If leadership should arise in such situations it would be the result of the most primitive sort of power, physical and ingenious. The focus of attention would bring out rudimentary curiosity, feat, and rage reactions. Yet even in this crowd there would be a certain universality or community of activity.

Consider a heterogeneous throng waiting for a train to take them on a summer excursion. If the train is delayed, a common interest may in time

(597) weld the individuals into a crowd. A few more vociferous individuals begin to talk loudly to their friends of the abominable service of the railroad. Gradually others talk in little knots. They all mill around and around on the platform. If the train is seriously delayed, the crowd displays a tendency to blame the station officials for its non-appearance. There may be even a fairly concerted movement toward the ticket office to demand explanations or the refunding of the fares. But when the train finally does arrive and every one is aboard, the crowd attitudes and activities disappear, and the whole incident is quickly forgotten. While the crisis continues, however, the rudiments of vigorous mass action are in evidence.

The following report by an American student describes a temporary crowd in Berlin in which the motive was distinctly prepotent, and finally resulted in aggressive mass action:

When there was potato shortage in Berlin I saw in a market place many hundreds of women waiting in line for potatoes. A farmer appeared driving a small wagon loaded with potatoes. He named a price for his potatoes which was beyond the means of the women. Quickly and spontaneously they raided the wagon, stripped it of potatoes, and dispersed before the police appeared.

This was a spontaneous mass action provoked by the hunger and suffering of the Berliners during the hard winters following the peace treaty. The American noticed no apparent leaders here, but doubtless there were some more aggressive women in the crowd who furnished a pattern of reaction for the others.

When there is a common language and some common social-cultural background, the crowd is likely to be more integrated. Whatever responses the crowd may make would be at a higher level than those of the non-communicating immigrant group. In the non-communicating group the influence of the leader is circumscribed because he cannot use verbal signs in controlling the action of the crowd. A common language always makes the leader's control more flexible.

An individual relatively strange in both language and cultural background may be affected by a crowd situation during a crisis. An American student, who spoke and read German easily, had spent nearly two years in Germany before the war. Naturally he read the newspaper accounts and talked to many Germans about the matter, and yet he felt no particular sympathy for war as such or for this one in particular. In fact, he was in

(508) some mental conflict as to who was responsible for the outbreak of hostilities. His principal interest was the observation of human behavior under war conditions. At the time he wrote in his diary:

After dinner Jerry and I dropped into the business district of Frankfort and found a wave of mild excitement running through the throngs of people moving up and down the street. The evening journals had brought us the information that General Von Hindenburg had inflicted an horrible and telling defeat on the Russians at Tannenburg in East Prussia. As I read over the dispatches, images of pleasant days spent in and near the Mazurkian lake country came back to me. I also recalled local stories told there of the manner in which Von Hindenburg had for years past put the Fifth Army Corps through difficult maneuvres in this very lake region in anticipation of just such attacks from the East as the Russians had now undertaken.

We strolled down the Allee talking of how long we might remain in Germany and of the possible duration of the war. We came into the Square just off the Circle as a crowd was forming to celebrate the victory of General Von Hindenburg. In this Square were several statues— the omnipresent one of Bismarck, as well as others of national heroes— a fitting place indeed for the celebration. An immense crowd pressed around the Bismarck Denkmal from the high base of which army officers and public men made impassioned speeches, promising the people that now the Russians were defeated, in a few weeks the armies of the Empire would sweep into Paris and that the navy would defeat the English on the high seas. Thus would Germany and her allies be vindicated. Lusty voices in the crowd took up the song "Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles, über Alles in der Welt."

Up to this point Jerry and I had shown only a normal interest in listening to the speeches and in watching and hearing the behavior of the crowd. But the singing of this war-like song, the grip on one's imagination and feeling of the strength of this nation fighting for its territory brought in my own case a great lurch forward into more intimate relations with the crowd members. Then came another song— one which has always stirred me. Is it because of my Nordic ancestry and its love of adventure? I do not know. But the music and the words to "Die Wacht am Rhein" got under my skin, so that I found myself singing the chorus with great force. I felt myself being surcharged again and again with emotion.

A feeling of expansiveness, of wanting to get into the fight, into the great emotional swing of this people, surged through me. I remarked to Jerry, "if I were a German I'd be in this thing in a minute." And I believe that had this enthusiasm persisted, I should have done so. I had witnessed just this sort of thing in good German friends of mine, men who had once expressed very liberal or even socialistic views, who now actually wept because they could not join the colors at once, but were remanded to civilian life to await their subsequent call from the war office.

( 509) Several months after this experience this American wrote:

It is a curious thing that to this day, I cannot hear "The Watch on the Rhine" without catching something of a martial spirit, a desire to fight, with images of myself in fine uniform, marching in military step with others. This is all perhaps based on childish dreams of being a hero, but it nevertheless illustrates the tremendous suggestion which a singing, shouting crowd may have upon a relative outsider. There is no doubt in my mind that this song has a rhythm which appeals to my early conditioning and even to my prepotent patterns to struggle, to expand and to fight.

We should not forget here, of course, that the American and the German were not so far removed from the same impetus. The existence of the culture pattern of war is evident in America as in Germany. The interesting thing is that the songs sung and the speeches made were distinctly German. Nevertheless there was an emotional carry-over due to the common affective, emotional basis of both the American and the Germanic pictures of war-marching, fighting, uniforms, glory, etc. In other words, there is a drainage of emotional reactions into a new content, in this case Germanic not American. If the defeated enemy had been the American forces, the emotional reaction might have been strong but of opposite direction.

3. Crowds and Serious Crises.— Another type of crowd arises where the crisis is very intense and where leadership may become a much more pertinent factor. In a physical crisis such as a flood, a cyclone, an earthquake, or explosion, at first there is usually a great mass movement arising from fear. This is often followed by a more organized crowd which attempts to escape danger in more rational fashion, or which tries more consistently to overcome some of the hardships of the situation. In lynchings and revolutions there are more aggressive physical responses and a distinct heightening of the usual emotional and distinctive domination of behavior. Marked crises in religious and business situations may provoke crowd action in which behavior is perhaps not quite so violent as in lynching or revolutionary mobs Nevertheless the difference in behavior is only one of degree, not of kind.

In revolutionary times crowd behavior often goes to great extremes. The literature on revolutions is full of legends of street fighting and mob action. The French Revolution has been a classical example of mob behavior. We

( 510) all carry an image of the storming of the Bastille, an image probably acquired from Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. Our historical images of the nineteenth century are filled with revolutionary episodes of the struggle of the masses for political and economic rights. In these images anarchistic and later, socialistic mythology play a very large part... The propaganda of Bakunin and his followers crystallized a great deal of industrial unrest among the working classes, especially in Italy, France, and Spain. The resulting mass movement had considerable effect upon the subsequent history of Europe, in the formation of legends and stereotypes of revolutionary reactions against alleged capitalistic exploitation.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917 mob action arose in spite of organized efforts to check it. When the inhibitions in the form of culture norms are released, the behavior of men and women is thrown back upon more rudimentary behavior patterns, involving fear and rage especially. While out of such violence new institutions may be born, emotional mob behavior is typical in the period of transition.

In our own country mob action has been exemplified in the mass action against the horse-thief in the Far West, by race-riots in the North but especially in the development of lynching as a means of social control of the negro in the South. Lynching affords not only a means of control of the recalcitrant negro, it also furnishes the participants with a good deal of emotional release from repressions which they feel in their daily dealings with the black men. When some negro stepped too far across the limits of the mores of the community, he was treated as an example for all others. Through this means there grew up a definite technique in handling the negro and the community more or less approved of this method. In fact, various communities devised their own methods of dealing with the negro offenders. In some areas hanging was in vogue, in others burning or shooting.[1] In fact, culture patterns come in time to govern even mob behavior.

It is interesting to observe how the Southern manner of dealing with negroes who break the mores carries over to new situations. Thus in the recent labor disputes in North Carolina and elsewhere there has bear considerable mob action in which kidnapping and flogging played a part.


4. Crowd Epidemics.— Another type of crowd behavior must be considered before leaving this subject. We refer to the epidemics of crowd action which often sweep through a whole population. Occasionally these waves of emotional crowd behavior persist for a considerable time. These are not mere isolated instances of crowd behavior stimulated by some particular crisis within a single community. They have a wider spread. They are related to deep-seated sentiments and feelings which are current in a particular society. Often they are dependent on some form of suggestive propaganda for their diffusion over a large area. With ease of communication these mental epidemics are often closely linked with public opinion. In these crowd crazes we must look both to the cultural and to the psychological setting. Certainly they have been common phenomena in Western society from the Middle Ages to the present time.

At the outset they took on religious form. One of the earliest was the pilgrimage mania which began about 1000 n. n. and lasted in its fullest intensity for a hundred years. This was followed by the Crusades. These were distinctly mass movements stimulated by religious leaders, particularly certain popes, by medieval orders of knights, and by various economic groups. Italian merchants who did a good business in transporting the crusaders to the Holy Land were particularly in favor of the Crusades. The activities of Peter the Hermit and Pope Urban II in arousing the masses to make the First Crusade furnish a typical picture of how such movements are started. In Palestine itself Peter the Hermit conceived the idea of freeing the Holy Land from the infidel Mohammedan power. Receiving the approval of his project from Simeon, Patriarch of the Greek Church of Jerusalem, Peter repaired to Pope Urban II:

Urban received him most kindly; read, with tears in his eyes, the epistle from the Patriarch Simeon, and listened to the eloquent story of the Hermit with an attention which shewed how deeply he sympathised with the woes of the Christian Church. Enthusiasm is contagious; and the pope appears to have caught it instantly from one whose zeal was so unbounded. Giving the Hermit full powers, he sent him abroad to preach the holy war to all nations and potentates of Christendom. The Hermit preached, and countless thousands answered to his call. France, Germany, and Italy started at his voice, and prepared for the deliverance of Zion. One of the early historians of the Crusade, who was himself an eyewitness of the rapture of Europe, describes the personal appearance of the Hermit at this time. He says that there appeared to be something divine in everything which he said or did. The people so highly reverenced him,

(512) that they plucked hairs from the mane of his mule that they might keep them as relics. While preaching he wore in general a woollen tunic, with a dark-coloured mantle, which fell down to his heels. His arms and feet were bare; and he ate neither flesh nor bread, supporting himself chiefly upon fish and wine. "He set out," says the chronicler, "from whence I know not; but we saw him passing through the towns and villages, preaching everywhere, and the people surrounding him in crowds, loading him with offerings, and celebrating his sanctity with such great praises, that I never remember to have seen such honors bestowed upon any one." Thus he went on, untired, inflexible, and full of devotion, communicating his own madness to his hearers, until Europe was stirred from its very depths.[2]

While Peter the Hermit was having such success the pope crossed the Alps into the somewhat alien territory of Philip I. Following the Council of Clermont, he began himself to advocate a holy war against the infidels. Great throngs of people crowded into Clermont to hear Urban II preach the need of a crusade. Note the use of then current stereotypes:

The great square before the cathedral church of Clermont became every instant more densely crowded as the hour drew nigh when the pope was to address the populace. Issuing from the church in his full canonicals, surrounded by his cardinals and bishops in all the splendor of the Romish ecclesiastical costume, the pope stood before the populace on a high scaffolding erected for the occasion, and covered with scarlet cloth. A brilliant array of bishops and cardinals surrounded him; and among them, humbler in rank, but more important in the world's eye, the Hermit Peter, dressed in his simple and austere habiliments. Historians differ as to whether or not Peter addressed the crowd, but as all agree that he was present, it seems reasonable to suppose that he spoke. But it was the oration of the pope that was most important. As he lifted up his hands to ensure attention, every voice immediately became still. He began by detailing the miseries endured by their brethren in the Holy Land; how the plains of Palestine were desolated by the outrageous heathen, who with the sword and the firebrand carried wailing into the dwellings and flames into the possessions of the faithful; how Christian wives and daughters were defiled by pagan lust; how the altars of the true God were desecrated, and the relics of the saints trodden under foot. "You," continued the eloquent pontiff, "you, who hear me, and who have received the true faith, and been endowed by God with power, and strength, and greatness of soul,— whose ancestors hive been the prop of Christendom, and whose kings have put a barrier against the progress of the infidel,— I call upon you to wipe off these impurities from the face of the earth, and lift your oppressed fellow-Christians from the depths into which they have been trampled. The sepulchre of Christ is possessed by the heathen, the

( 513) sacred places dishonored by their vileness. Oh, brave knights and faithful people! offspring of invincible fathers! ye will not degenerate from your ancient renown. Ye will not be restrained from embarking in this great cause by the tender ties of wife or little ones, but will remember the words of the Saviour of the world himself, "Whosoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. Whosoever shall abandon for my name's sake his house, or his brethren, or his sisters, or his father, or his mother, or his wife, or his children, or his lands, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life."

The warmth of the pontiff communicated itself to the crowd, and the enthusiasm of the people broke out several times ere he concluded his address. He went on to portray, not only the spiritual but the temporal advantages that would accrue to those who took up arms in the service of the cross. Palestine was, he said, a land flowing with milk and honey, and precious in the sight of God, as the scene of the grand events which had saved mankind. That land, he promised, should be divided among them. Moreover, they should have full pardon for their offences, either against God or man. "Go, then," he added, "in expiation of your sins; and go assured, that after this world shall have passed away, imperishable glory shall be yours in the world which is to come." The enthusiasm was no longer to be restrained, and loud shouts interrupted the speaker; the people exclaiming as if with one voice, "Dieu le veult! Dieu le veult!" With great presence of mind Urban took advantage of the outburst, and as soon as silence was obtained, continued: "Dear brethren, to-day is shewn forth in you that which the Lord has said by his Evangelist, `When two or three are gathered together in my name, there will I be in the midst of them to bless them.' If the Lord God had not been in your souls, you would not all have pronounced the same words; or rather God himself pronounced them by your lips, for it was he that put them in your hearts. Be they, then, your war-cry in the combat, for those words came forth from God. Let the army of the Lord, when it rushes upon his enemies, shout but that one cry, 'Dieu le veult! Dieu le veult!' Let whoever is inclined to devote himself to this holy cause make it a solemn engagement, and bear the cross of the Lord either on his breast or his brow till he set out; and let him who is ready to begin his march place the holy emblem on his shoulders, in memory of that precept of our Savior, `He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.'"

The news of this council spread to the remotest parts of Europe in an incredibly short space of time. Long before the fleetest horseman could have brought the intelligence, it was known by the people in distant provinces; a fact which was considered as nothing less than supernatural. But the subject was in every body's mouth, and the minds of men were prepared for the result. The enthusiastic merely asserted what they wished, and the event tallied with their prediction. This was, however, quite enough in those days for a miracle, and as a miracle every one regarded it .[3]

( 514)

From this beginning the enthusiasm for the crusade spread throughout Europe. What was practically a mob psychosis arose. Miracles and supernatural events were attributed to leading persons, and for nearly two centuries the whole of Europe felt the psychological impress of the crusading mania.

Toward the end of the Crusades the flagellant epidemic began in Europe, and an order of flagellants arose within the Catholic Church. A general craze for receiving punishment and for punishing others took form. Crowds of persons passed through city streets brutally whipping each other for the glory of their souls. This sadistic-masochistic mania lasted nearly a hundred years.

In the middle of the fourteenth century occurred an outbreak of anti-Semitism, and the Jews were violently persecuted everywhere. During this same period the Black Death caused a great wave of terror among the European peoples. Then, toward the close of the fourteenth century, a series of dancing manias began in Europe and lasted over a hundred years.

So early as the year 1374, assemblages of men and women were seen at Aix-La-Chapelle who had come out of Germany and who, united by one common delusion, exhibited to the public both in the streets and in the churches the following strange spectacle. They formed circles hand in hand and, appearing to have lost all control over their senses, continued dancing, regardless of the bystanders, for hours together in wild delirium, until at length they fell to the ground in a state of exhaustion. While dancing they neither saw nor heard, being insensible to external impressions through the senses, but were haunted by visions, their fancies conjuring up spirits whose names they shrieked out; and some of them afterward asserted that they felt as if they had been immersed in a stream of blood, which obliged them to leap so high. Others, during the paroxysm, saw the heavens open and the Saviour enthroned with the Virgin Mary, according as the religious notions of the age were strangely and variously reflected in their imaginations.

Where the disease was completely developed, the attack commenced with epileptic convulsions. Those affected fell to the ground senseless, panting and laboring for breath. They foamed at the mouth, and suddenly springing up began their dance amid strange contortions—  . . .

It was but a few months ere this demoniacal disease had spread from Aix-la-Chapelle, where it appeared in July, over the neighboring Netherlands. Wherever the dancers appeared, the people assembled in crowds to gratify their curiosity with the frightful spectacle. At length the increasing number of the affected excited no less anxiety than the attention that was paid to them. In towns and villages they took possession of the religious houses, processions were every-

(515) -where instituted on their account, the masses were said and hymns were sung, while the disease itself, of the demoniacal origin of which no one entertained the least doubt, excited everywhere astonishment and horror.[4]

Other dancing manias followed this one, and it was not until a century later that this mania died out, to be promptly replaced by the witchcraft terror or demonophobia.

The fear of witches began as a mass movement about the beginning of the fifteenth century and persisted for more than two hundred years. The spread of this popular madness forms one of the most amazing stories in modern history. A veritible paranoia persecutoria seized the masses. Every person suspected in the least way of dealing with evil spirits was inhumanly maltreated. Both Catholics and Protestants were victims of this epidemic. Nowhere in the literature of social behavior have we better evidence that stereotype, myth, and legend constitute a valid part of the social reality. The Christians of this period peopled their world with a host of evil demons, who constantly duped human beings into league with them to injure other people and to bring destruction to their own souls. The entire psychology of gossip and myth-making is wonderfully illustrated in the development of witchcraft persecutions.

At the opening of the seventeenth century there was a change in the nature of the popular delusions which swept over the Western world. The Reformation, with its variety of divergent sects, was an accomplished fact. Europe was undergoing profound economic, political, and social changes. Capitalism was steadily replacing the medieval economic order. The desire for money profits replaced the desire to save souls as the only worthy occupation. From this shift in emphasis to money and from the desire to make great profits, arose the speculation manias which continue down to our own day. Among the noteworthy early ones were the tulip mania in Holland, where a craze for buying and selling tulips disrupted the normal business life of Holland for over a year. Then about 1720 came the Mississippi Scheme in England and the South Sea Bubble in France. Thousands of persons were made bankrupt in a fury of popular speculation. Similar manias occurred throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries down to our latest stock-market enthusiasm on Wall Street. The land-buying craze of the 30's. the Gold Rush of 1849, the stock-market mania before

(516) the crisis of 1893, and the one before the crisis of 1907 are easily recalled. Still more recently the oil booms and Florida land boom swept thousands into the vortex of emotional excitement and ultimate financial ruin. In 1928 a great surge of speculation on Wall Street had reverberations over the entire country.

The growth of speculation manias has not caused other mental epidemics to cease entirely. There have been a series of religious revivals in our country, from those of Whitefield and Edwards in the early eighteenth century down to the latest performances of Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson. Following is a description of one of our most popular revivalist preachers:

People began to assemble at 6: 30 r. M. By 7: 3o every seat was occupied. The evening was warm and even before the meeting began, the air became humid and unpleasant. The revivalist, who likes to be known by a familiar nickname, came in about 7: 3o and stood about on the edge of the platform gaping at his audience. The chairman did not announce his identity, and many did not know until later that he was the great revivalist. This very element of surprise was effective. Shortly before 8 r. M. the chairman introduced the speaker in an in formal manner. After the introduction, the revivalist asked the congregation to stand while he delivered a prayer. This itself was an effective group activity. And when he ended with the Lord's Prayer in which all participated, the feeling of crowd integration became quite definite. Then came the old familiar song, "Onward Christian Soldiers," in which all joined— a further effective device for producing the sense of crowd solidarity.

As he climbed into the rather narrow pulpit, the revivalist made the witty remark that he felt like Samson with his shorn locks since it was clear that he could not move about so freely as on the ordinary revivalist platform. He then produced a sympathetic response from his audience by flattery. He referred longingly to the family "trundle bed" and his "poor old mother." He remarked that he was born and raised in the best agricultural state in the Union, Iowa. But soon he had moved to the best all-around state in the good old U. S. A., Oregon, and to the best section of that State, Hood River. There was hearty applause from Iowa people, from Oregonians— especially those from Hood River, and from a considerable body of the other loyal citizens of the country generally. He next proceeded to his text.

He began his sermon with "Is it well with thy wife? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with thy child?" Using whatever acrobatic contortions the narrow pulpit permitted, screaming and shouting, he developed his text. He told horrible stories of ruined lives of husbands, wives and children. After each repetition of the text, he demanded of his audience, "And is it well with thee?" He appealed through painting pictures of sinful lives saved from hell and dis-

(517) -aster by God's mercy. lie played upon the stereotypes of home and mother, of broken-hearted fathers praying on their deathbeds for the conversion of their wayward sons. He touched the fear of everyone by his gruesome narratives of sudden death. He called the modern husband a "lazy, tobacco-absorbing buckpassing bird," and thus caught the attention of disillusioned wires and of self-righteous husbands. His stories were personal and intimate in tone, filled with common street slang and colored by bizarre details. He gave specific names and street addresses. He related his own miraculous conversion after he had narrowly escaped taking the "last fatal step."

He described American young women as "vamping, frizzle-headed, gumchewing Janes" that are a "peril to mankind." He called the automobile a "segregated red light house on wheels and no longer segregated." The "Amen corner" applauded heartily when he vigorously demanded that we return to the "good old-fashioned curfew." He hoped for a national law to compel boys and girls to go to bed early and to stay there. He assured the audience that boys and girls know more deviltry today at sixteen than their grandparents ever knew.

To great applause he attacked the bootlegger and his patron.

He pleased the audience in his discussion of evolution. He did not believe that his ancestors were once ugly, hairy monkeys with long tails. Despite godless scientists who say that he came from the ape, he believed that God created him and that as one of God's creations he was good enough. To disprove the dogma of evolution he declared that because "both a cow and a cocoanut give milk, it does not follow that they descended from a milk-weed." The audience laughed in hearty sympathy with his logic.

In general his technique was to talk rapidly, scream and shout, exaggerate his characterizations, and make extreme gestures. He swung his arms, mopped his sweaty brow with a large handkerchief, and moved back and forth in front of his audience. He appealed blatantly to sentiments of love, hatred, sympathy, and disgust. His entire sermon was just that curious mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous which is so dear to the hearts of American audiences.

He ended his sermon by beginning to pray. Because he did not alter his tone or general manner at first many of his audience thought he was still preaching. He paused in the middle of his supplications to inquire if any of the audience wished him to pray for them.

After he had finished, the congregation joined in another well-known song, "I Love to Tell the Story." Before the meeting broke up a minister of the synod arose to remind the audience once more what a wonderful man the revivalist preacher was.

In all of these epidemics we see certain distinctive features. Death and the problem of sin and immortality constitute for Christian communities fundamental problems. Religious revivals are mass efforts to treat these deep-seated emotional patterns in man. Yet, not only religious crises con-

(518) -cern him. He is also today under the domination of a powerful economic ethos. The profit-seeking motive has taken great hold of the fantasy to get something for nothing— the infantile desire to have one's cake and eat it too. In this way the notion of luck has come into play in the speculative manias which still mark the modern capitalistic regime.

Certain common psychological mechanisms are doubtless involved in all of these crowd phenomena, both those of temporary and those of lasting and widespread effects. Some crowds are temporary, leaderless, and evanescent. Others are integrated around leaders and issues and tend to assume a more formidable character. To analyze any particular instance of crowd behavior, the cultural background, the personal-social experience of the people and the direction of leadership must be recognized.

B. The Mechanism of Crowd Formation.

It is evident that the crowd is not a mere horde or congeries of people distributed in space. As Le Bon pointed out, the crowd always has a psychological dimension. Crowds may be transitory or of a more intense persistent type, as illustrated in the lynching mob or in mental epidemics. In all of these certain general characteristics appear. Of course, there are unique features in every crowd situation due to a different configuration of factors. We shall examine here only certain more general features.

Crowds tend to form in times of crises. Novel stimuli cause us to change our responses. These stimuli may be passing ones, like the noise of two automobiles crashing into each other, the falling of a steel girder into the street, or the sound of a siren at a fire. Again the stimuli may involve situations of a seemingly more significant sort, like the crisis of an alleged crime by a negro in the South, or the alleged depredations of a cattle rustler in the Old West. The call of a religious revivalist will also set off crowd responses. In other situations the particular trend of the stock and bond market may throw men into a frenzy of excitement and cause them to behave in a distinctly crowd-like way.

We have, then, at the outset some combination of novel stimuli, called a crisis, which sets off definite perceptual and motor responses. There is a particular appeal through the eye, the ears, or the nose. Perceptions, therefore, are essential in the setting up of crowd behavior. We see the object. We hear the cry of distress. We Smell the burning building. We experience

(519) then what Bentley calls a presentative consciousness. That is to say, there is a direct and immediate stimulation, a corresponding awareness or perception of the situation, and a distinct tendency to act.

Not only mere perceptual responses are evident, however. These new situations call to mind old associations. Previous conditioning determines very largely, though perhaps not entirely, what we do. That is to say, even in temporary crowd responses, the apperceptive accumulations give a direction to our responses. These internal factors may be largely in the nature of highly charged emotional attitudes and responses, but nevertheless the predispositions of the individual are important in his reactions. The writer once witnessed the varied responses of a theater audience when a fire broke out. Most of the spectators made a rush for the doors, but a former fireman in the audience reached one set of doors ahead of the others, and threw his weight against the crowd in an effort to hold the doors closed. There was great excitement until he shouted a few orders. The crowd promptly calmed down and filed out in orderly fashion. The man's foresight saved an inevitable jamming of the doorway and probably much injury. The vast majority, driven by natural fear, ran from danger as rapidly as possible; but the fireman's training had established a set of predispositions which cut across his own natural impulses, and caused him to act for the ultimate safety of the group. His apperceptive background produced calmer and more rational responses, whereas those of the others rested on prepotent tendencies to flee from danger.

The previous conditioning of a lynching mob is all-important. This type of crowd behavior became almost institutionalized in the two generations following the Civil War. In handling the recalcitrant negro the Southern whites evolved a technique of mob violence. This technique was rationalized by such stereotype phrases as "keeping the nigger in his place," "protecting white womanhood"; and such phases wore rapidly made a part of Southern culture norms. So, too, the very methods of apprehending and killing the negro are somewhat conventionalized. Thus we may say that people have an apperceptive background for crowd action, and that where it is as deeply associated with emotions and feelings as in the Southern lynching bee, crowd action assumes an almost institutionalized form. Similarly, legends and myths of fabulous fortunes made in gold or oil rushes, of in land booms, or oil the stock market both exaggerate our manias of

( 520) speculation and give them patterns. In our study of crowd psychology, therefore, we must take into account the immediate stimulation as well as the perception and the apperceptive background.

In addition to these factors, however, which are largely individualistic, the effect of the crowd itself must be considered. In a genuine crowd there is a spatial rearrangement of the individual members, both in reference to the stimuli and in reference to each other. Persons in a crowd form a distinct configuration not seen in the mere horde or in the persons passing to and fro on the street.

The first factor in crowd psychology which is caused by the crowd itself is the common focusing of attention upon the same stimuli. This common attention to the same stimuli produces a reorganization of individual responses into a common pattern. We may call this the polarization of response. In its simplest form, polarization indicates an all-to-one relation: the individuals of the crowd respond to the single object of attentiona physical situation, a speaker, or a leader. In extreme mob action this all-to-one relation may be modified, and in the organized audience a one-to-one relation becomes apparent.

Associated with this polarization there is, on the part of the crowd, not so much a face-to-face as a shoulder-to-shoulder relationship. As individuals push in toward the center there are a lateral pressure and a lateral movement, which are important factors in crowd psychology. The pushing and shoving are visually perceived, and we know that movement is detected on the periphery of vision, not at its focus. This lateral movement of others, then, is promptly observed and becomes a continuing stimulus to our own actions and makes us feel at one with them.

Associated with this visual perception of movement, are the tactual sensations made by physical contact with other bodies around us. There are people in front of us, to either side and behind, and from all of them we receive tactile stimulations, sometimes of a rather vigorous sort. The greater the number of people, the more crowding and craning of necks there will be. Added to this stimulation are kinesthetic sensations arising from our own bodily movements. We lurch forwards or backwards with the others. We reach out a hand or start to run, and our awareness of this movement is in turn a further stimulus to action. All this time we are projecting our sensations-kinesthetic, tactile, visual, and auditory, As we experience images of these sensations in those about us, we have a curious sense of sol-

( 521) -idarity and common action. In the repercussion of stimuli peculiar to crowd psychology, this impression of the universality of our sensations and purposes intensifies our own sensations and we may shortly commit actions which, done by isolated individuals, would be considered obvious marks of insanity. Particularly may we act in this way if a leader appears in the common focus of crowd attention. He harangues us in stereotypes as familiar as the air we breathe. He recalls the images of our cultural myths and legends. Stereotypes and images alike carry an enormous emotional significance; and as members of the crowd we give them our unreserved, if temporary, allegiance. Thus the speaker defines and crystallizes our group action. With cheers for our nobility or shouts of virtuous rage we promptly do as a crowd what we may individually regret at our leisure.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapter XXIV, pp. 693-720.

B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises from assignment in Source Book, Chapter XXIV, p. 720.

2. Distinguish between the crowd and the family group; between the crowd and a mere throng of persons.

3. What are the differences between the shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face groups?

4 Are crowds more or less likely to form today than ever before? Discuss.

C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.

1. See assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapter XXIV, pp. 720-21.

2. Reports on (a) Alaskan Gold Rush; (b) the Oil Land booms.

3. Report on the speculation mania of 1928 on Wall Street and over the whole country.

4. Report on selling mania in 1929 at the time of the Stock Market crash.



  1. Cf. W. White, Rope and Faggot, A Biography of Judge Lynch, 1929, for a number of cases.
  2. C. Mackay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, 1852, Vol. II, pp. 7-8.
  3. Ibid., pp. 9-11.
  4. Quoted in Introduction to Science of Sociology, by Park and Burgess, pp. 879-880. Copyright by the University of Chicago, 1921.

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