Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 21: Crowd Behavior and Personality

Kimball Young

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A. Ego-Expansion and Crowd Behavior

The present chapter offers a psychological analysis of the effects of crowd behavior on personality. We have already noted that both perception and associated images must be taken into account in an understanding of crowd action. The perceptual factors are the sights, sounds, and physical contacts by which we are made aware of masses of persons around us behaving much as we behave. Still, we see, hear, and feel in ways distinctly affected by the internal nature of our organism, by the internal determinants of our attention. These include not only conscious memories and ideas, but many vestiges from earlier experience the source of which is often lost. When these vestiges appear in consciousness and behavior, they are disguised and rationalized beyond recognition. In this chapter we shall study the apperceptive background of mass action and its effects on crowd behavior of the individual.

Both external observation of crowd behavior and reports of participants indicate that mass action is psychologically different in quality from those phases of social interaction which we see in the ordinary primary or secondary group.

1. Emotions and In-group Attitudes.— The most obvious aspect of crowd behavior is the sense of emotional freedom which it gives, the loss of the feeling of individual social responsibility, the disappearance of rational thought, the fixation of attention and behavior on one desired end only, and, as Ross puts it, the "depression of the sense of self." Martin has pointed out that the crowd man is marked by three distinctive states. The first is a sense of absolute rightness in what he is doing with his fellows. Second, there is always a large component of hatred and violence in his attitudes and actions. And third, the participant has a heightened sense of his own importance. That is, he indulges in a kind of paranoic ego-ex-

(523) -pansion. Let us take up some of the features of this psychology in more detail.

The fixation of crowd attention upon one object to the exclusion of all other stimuli has long been recognized. It was once thought that we had here a sort of mass hypnotism. While we hardly so describe it today, there is no doubt that the psychological basis of what we have called polarization changes the nature of our thought and of our attitudes. In crowd action a form of dissociation is set up which frees many impulses otherwise covered up in the course of more standardized social behavior. In our usual social intercourse the conventionalized or socialized codes keep our actions within a particular framework. Our deeper emotional reactions of anger and fear and our deeper mental sets for ego-expression are checked. We may not like Mr. Jones to whom we are speaking but common politeness demands that we speak as if we did. The law insists on what are called "rights" of others, so that though we are angered at the alleged immoral behavior of other persons, we dare not turn our rage loose on them. We are afraid of the growing competition from the negro workmen about us, and we may speak of it among our friends; but social custom and the legal code inhibit us from carrying out our more primitive impulses to attack them personally. In the process of social conditioning through which we have all passed we have acquired attitudes of respect for the law and the mores. We have been conditioned to the standards of welfare in the community. The need for social coöperation, for common action for the good of the larger group, has been insisted on. Our conventions of manners have taught us to react politely even to people whom we distrust and dislike. We have been conditioned into attitudes of mutual aid, of loyalty, of patriotic responses to the symbols of the group — the flag, the insignia, and the printed code. Still, there always lie within us certain antagonistic attitudes. The more deeply emotional ones are those of rage and fear, toward the outsider or the stranger, toward the divergent person and his group. In contrast we are conditioned to love those of our own family, class, community, religion, or nation. Our ego is constructed out of this matrix of aggressiveness and superiority of our own group and its values, and an ambivalent set of attitudes opposing the others-group and denying their values.

Even in our strictly personal-social interaction there arise attitudes of fear and anger, on the one hand, and love and sympathy, on the other. As

( 523) we saw in our discussion of group life, even within the in-group there are rivalries and antagonisms, but they are held in leash by the cultural norms of the group. Nowhere is this more vividly seen than in antagonisms within the family, both among the children and between husband and wife. Such person-to-person competition exists in other groups: lodges, schools, and professional associations, among business men in the same Rotary Club, and among persons within trade unions, political parties, and religious organizations. Yet the social and cultural codes hold us within a framework of behavior that does not permit much unlimited and "free," that is, unrestrained, expression of our competitive attitudes and emotions toward the others around us in our own in-group.

In a crisis, however, within any in-group, some of these inhibited tendencies come into play. For example, in a family quarrel, persons often unburden themselves of recriminations and threats which may actually amaze them more than the people to whom they are addressed. If an open conflict develops within a labor group, the bitterness between the factions is frequently more intense than is the bitterness of the whole group toward the capitalist employers. Generally, then, we may say if a crisis arises between in-group and out-group, where some incipient antagonism already exists— but where, in the daily relations of the members of the two groups, this is held in check— the deeper-lying attitudes of hatred, fear and avoidance which have been heretofore buried in the personality will almost certainly be expressed. No matter what their object, the antagonistic attitudes are directed against the out-group.

This is precisely what happens when the crowd forms in situations involving conflict and avoidance or escape from danger. The fixation of attention, the stimuli which set off emotional patterns of rage and fear for our safety, and our sense of superiority, produce a dissociation from the other patterns in our personality. We become set for types of action which are motivated by tendencies hitherto held in check. That is to say, they have been inhibited by the presence of actions and attitudes of an opposite; a more kindly and socialized, sort.

2. Unconscious Mechanisms and Participation in the Crowd —  Many students of crowd behavior, especially Le Bon, Sidis, and Martin, have noted the place which the subconscious or unconscious mechanisms occupy in crowd behavior. Martin holds, for example, that in the crowd the unconscious is released and that the individual's hatred and suppressed egotism

( 525) come into action. Whatever our theory of the unconscious, the fact remains that the crowd situation does give rise to ideas and actions which are normally repressed. What Freud called the "censor" is released. The more or less repressed tendencies come into operation. As we saw, the censor is that set of inhibiting attitudes and ideas which is built up through personal-social and cultural conditioning. In sleep, in day-dreams, and in the dissociated states set up in the fixations of crowd situations, these inhibitions are shunted, and the less socialized but more powerful natural impulses come into action. These more primitive reactions go back to infantile conditionings and native reactions which have been suppressed.

In the release of these inhibited tendencies and attitudes under the type of dissociation seen in the crowd, the attitudes and action are characterized by what Stekel has called "parapathy"— that is, a confusion of reality and fancy which we find in the dream and the fantasy. In other words, though fantasy plays an important rôle in the construction of our attitudes and behavior in other social relations, it comes into its own in the crowd reactions. The very sense of freedom and irresponsibility which is fostered by the crowd situation is merely a phase of this dream-like stage of thought and action. A college student had indulged in a rather brutal hazing episode; with about twenty others he took a lad from his room, tore his clothes, handled him roughly, clipped his hair, and with a burning chemical painted some college insignia on his head.

After it was over it seemed to me we were all out of our heads at the time; but it was a glorious experience while it lasted. Herb A. and I were the ringleaders. We went to a side door of the house where Mark L. lived and asked for him. When Mark came to the door we asked him to step on to the porch. Then we all pounced on him, grabbed his legs and arms, and dragged him down the street away from the house. We were in a frenzy of excitement at catching one of the dubs who had failed to take part in the College Day exercises. We met L.'s resistance by superior force and by threats of violence: "Shut up, or I'll knock your block off!" "Ali, give him a poke!" We handled him brutally and the more he fought the more vicious we became— twenty men to one. "We'd teach these lousy loafers to stay home when the rest of the college sent I day in hard work cleaning up the campus and whitewashing the huge college letter on the mountain side above the town." There was lots of profanity, and a distinct letting go of violent desires. It was all great fun.

This student also said that afterwards it all "seemed like a dream to him." Later he became well acquainted with the victim and often regretted the

(526) episode. After all, as he rationalized it, "Mark was only a symbol" for all the chaps who failed to take part in the College Day exercises.

We need not imagine that the individuals in a crowd action do not know what they are doing. The dissociation is not one of the deep sort found in somnambulism or stupor, but rather the sort found in milder states of disaggregation of consciousness. The techniques of handling the situation are often perfect. The point is that the dominating motive is emotional; the intellectual and social conditionings of right and wrong, of kindness and fair dealing, are lost under the stress of a deep impulse to injure some one.

Allport aptly remarks that "the individual in the crowd behaves just as he would behave alone, only more so." That is to say, his instinctive-emotional tendencies and his early infantile conditionings are released by the social facilitation of the crowd. While privately he would like to be violent, in the crowd he even goes beyond his own impulses and outdoes himself in his brutality, in his primitive responses.

3. Ego and Crowd Activity.— One of the most significant aspects of crowd behavior is the expansion of the ego. The crowd offers to the man in it an opportunity to indulge freely his own impulses; and to get something for nothing is one of our deepest wishes. His self-importance swells far beyond that of his ordinary social life. He lets out on the crowd's victim all that he has so long repressed. In the case of the college boys doubtless all of the hazing party wanted to avoid the hard labor of College Day, but they conformed to the code, only to express their own dislike of the whole business by "taking it out on" the one who failed to participate. We have here the psychology of the scapegoat in all societies. We load the victim down with all of the sins of the community and drive him from our midst. He carries away with him our own unintegrated attitudes and wishes, and we are now temporarily freed from the strain of having two antagonistic impulses within us. Our violence against the victim has relieved us of our own mental conflicts.

This thrusting on the victim of our own wishes, our own desires not to conform to group standards, is another important phase of crowd action. We use the familiar mechanists of projection. We attribute to the victim the very ideas, impulses, and attitudes which we have repressed in ourselves. We accuse him as we secretly accuse ourselves. Our own hatred and fear are projected upon him. A great part of the catharsis of crowd

(527) violence is given by this ritual of purification of our own mental conflict by projecting it on the other fellow. Stereotypes and legends of our ordinary prejudices become very prominent. To keep up our courage and to give social sanction to our acts, we shout these stereotypes to one another as we proceed in the crowd business.

This behavior is evident in crowd action toward races and classes which we fear and against which we develop great antagonism. These other people threaten our security and status. They have a freedom and a drive which contrasts unfavorably with our own sense of inferiority and of insecurity. Possibly some of the violence exerted in the South against the negro for sex crimes is a reflection of the repressed but primitive sexual tendencies in ourselves. So, too, the violence with which self-styled "superior races" meet the economic competition of other races is possibly caused by doubts of our capacity to retain our present favorable position.

The crowd, then, is marked by hatred and intolerance. Hatred is a combination of fear and rage directed against some object. It is built up against members of out-groups and their symbols and culture. It is essentially a defense mechanism. Like all defense mechanisms it keeps us from really solving particular situations in themselves. Instead, it confirms us as we adjust ourselves to new situations by using older social definitions based partially on attitudes of fear and hatred. In the crowd these attitudes become dominant. The objects of crowd attention are feared. They arouse intense antagonism. Our victims are naturally always wrong in their behavior and ideas. Our intolerance of them is largely an outgrowth of our hatred for them. But we can always defend it. In truth, we say, it is not intolerance, but strict justice; and strict justice is always stern.

Intimately related to intolerance is bigotry. We may define a bigot as a person who holds a view or creed with no regard for common reason or common notions of objective social reality. In a crowd a man is a bigot; ., he is always right. The absolute character of the crowd's ethical judgments is always apparent. What is done is ethically most correct, and easily justifiable, at least for the moment, by the members of the crowd. This heightened state of self-righteousness and self-importance is probably a form of delusion of grandeur.

In their more extreme form mechanisms of this sort are seen in the paranoic patient who imagines he is God, Caesar, Napoleon, Jesus, or a billionaire. The sense of superiority fostered by the in-group comes to its

( 528) more violent fruition in the crowd attitude toward itself.[1] Our lodge, our fraternity, our labor group, is superior to others. Our nation is the best, the greatest, the wealthiest, the most powerful. We identify ourselves with these stereotypes, and in the crisis of a crowd situation we act as if they were true. They are true for us. When our antagonists do not accept our definitions, we become hysterical and deport them or lynch them. If the object of our crowd mania is another nation, we mobilize our forces to destroy them if we can, or at least to reduce them to a position where their inferiority will be apparent even to themselves. Rational people sometimes object to Stephen Decatur's famous remark: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be right; but our country, right or wrong!" It is unreasonable and possibly unethical. It expresses the quintessence of all patriotism, and reveals as does no other aphorism our irrational, emotional but fundamentally sound love of and respect for the in-group.

Martin believes that all crowds are against somebody or something. Whether this is altogether true depends on our definition of a crowd. The rudimentary, fleeting crowd gathered around an accident or a street preacher may not show much of this antagonism, but apparently people in a crowd soon develop some sort of antagonistic attitudes. Thus someone is blamed as the cause of the accident. Or the corner evangelist persuades us to hate the devil and all his ways. Even when a crowd is passively witnessing heroic acts in a dangerous situation, an antagonistic attitude is apparently built up toward the situation itself. Crowds which display sympathy without a balancing hatred of some sort are probably rare. Possibly they could not show sympathy if it were not offset by the ambivalent attitude of avoidance and antagonism.

Our laughter in a crowd reveals the same sense of superiority; it is always egocentric and self-righteous. In a crowd we always laugh at others, never at ourselves. To ridicule a crowd is to put oneself in grave danger of becoming an object of its attack.

The release of the inhibitions normally held in check permits us to escape from social responsibility. Our social taboos die off and we enjoy a

(529) great sense of freedom and unrestraint. Probably our sense of irresponsibility is not quite conscious. It is rather that the crowd being what it is, we are dissociated from our normal moral selves. As Allport says, "The fact that others approve of what one wants to do by doing the same thing themselves gives a comfortable sense of moral sanction." There are not, however, the logical steps of reasoning which many writers seem to attribute to people in a crowd.[2] Before or during our crowd activity we probably do not employ even such rudimentary logic as to say, "Well, others do it, I can, too." Or, "I have long wanted to do this and now that the crowd is doing it, I'll get in it." These bits of pseudo-logic are rather our rationalizations after the event, when we are possibly uneasy about the social reaction to our presence in the crowd.

While we actually enjoy a tremendous feeling of freedom, at the time and often afterwards we usually think of our acts as entirely proper. All crowds are self-righteous. We always defend even the violences of our mob action in terms of socially approved ends. The Ku Klux Klan, existing in a political democracy, assumed the trappings of an Oriental oligarchy in costume and ceremonial. In its code and conduct it very undemocratically undertook to regulate the morals and manners of millions of people, but always in the name of powerful American stereotypes: protection of white womanhood, obedience to law, abolition of sin, etc. A large part of its strength lay in affording adventure, release from boredom and repression for its members, all within the frame of a socially approved ideology.

Whenever fundamental values of group survival seem at stake the more rational moral self, which is the result of conditioning to a code of distinctly higher order, gives way in the face of crowd situations. The moral self is too recently acquired by the personality to maintain its control over the lower and much more fundamental drives of ego-expansion and of hatred and fear of the others-group.

With the absolutism, hatred, intolerance, and ego-expansion found in the crowd. there occurs what Ross called an "arrest of thought." The intellectual processes are dominated by the emotions. What the crowd does may be entirely appropriate to the situation so far as techniques of accomplishing the crowd purposes are concerned. But whatever intelligence we employ is under the direction of our deeper emotional drives; we thus

( 530) reverse our usual situation. Without deliberate consideration we fall into suggested patterns of action.

In December, 1925, a certain city experienced a run on the banks. The day previous five small suburban banks controlled by one man failed to open. Although this affected less than 2 per cent of the city's deposits it was sufficient to precipitate a run on the downtown banks. The banks, knowing what would happen, were amply prepared at opening time the next morning. In our own bank we had two extra policemen to guard the cash, there was so much more than usual.

There was not a teller in the bank but knew that the bank was sound and that, if for any reason it should close, it would pay out dollar for dollar with dividends for the stockholders besides. There was absolutely no chance for any one to lose his money and we all knew it.

By ten o'clock a fairly good-sized crowd was milling about the entrance— a few who wanted their money, others who were just curious. The lobby was soon filled. By eleven o'clock it was crowded; outside the crowd extended a quarter of a block on either side of the building. Special policemen were trying to keep traffic moving to no avail. By twelve o'clock the lobby was almost impassable from the struggles of those who were in trying to get out and those who were out trying to get in. Women had their dresses torn, several fainted and men pushed each other aside and literally fought for places nearer the windows. Tellers were paying out money just as fast as credentials could be presented and verified. Such a lot of money to pay out! How long would it keep up? The ordinary supply of money was used up and tellers were paying out from packages of brand new bills by serial numbers, this being quicker than counting.

At one-thirty the word was passed around to the tellers to slow down and take their time; that it seemed impossible to get rid of the crowd in a hurry as had at first been the plan. The idea now was not to close at the regular time but to keep open until everybody who wanted it had his money. In other words, they gave up trying to bring the crowd to a reasoning state of mind and settled down to wear the idea out.

One lady, whom I knew well, drew a twenty dollar balance at my window. She was a woman who spent twenty dollars for a hat or shoes and hose whenever she wished. Her lovely coat which she was carrying on her arm had one sleeve partly ripped out and the fur cuff was ruined. After she had her twenty dollars, I asked her why in the world she subjected herself to such discomfort to get twenty dollars. Well, sire had come down to D. arid F.'s to shop, had seen the crowd and had come over to see what was going on. A lady with bills in her hand explained that they were having a run on the bank, that she had just gotten her money and hoped the bank wouldn't close until everybody else got his. The lady then expressed the opinion: "If you have money in the bank you had better get it out as soon as possible." A man confirmed the advice and from

(531) eleven o'clock on she had been trying to get to the window. It was now after two. For more than two hours she had been jammed and trampled about— in the crowd for twenty dollars which could not have meant very much to her. When asked why she did it, she said she didn't think how much she had; she just thought she must get her money before the bank closed and she added (for reason had returned, "I'd give the whole twenty if some one could get me out of here without my having to buffet the crowd again!"

A fine example of social facilitation. Having once adopted the idea of getting her money, the stimulations received from others in great numbers on all sides apparently trying to do the same thing and expressing the same common purpose augmented her desire to respond to such an extent that everything else was excluded from the field. Attention was focused on the one suggested act. Any reasoning about the matter was inhibited. At she said, she didn't think when she saw all the crowd trying to get their money out. Notice the social projection (perhaps a third of the people were really depositors).

As to my own feelings, in the beginning I had not thought of my balance. The bank was sound, we had plenty of money, anybody who wanted his money could get it. By eleven o'clock I had recalled that my purse contained the remnants of a five dollar bill and I wished that I had written a check yesterday. As the crowd grew more determined to get its money I began to want my money too. The facilitation to my desire to conform to the crowd idea was not quite . strong enough to inhibit my critical attitude toward the act. I knew the officers would feel such an act showed disloyalty, besides the whole thing was so foolish. Nevertheless it was a mighty struggle. I found out afterwards that two of the tellers did cash checks for their balances— instances of the stimulation being too strong for any inhibitions they may have set up against yielding .[3]

4. Stereotypes and Crowd Feeling.— Altogether, in the crowd, we use intellectual processes to effect our purposes at the time, and we use them r later to rationalize our acts. We may even be in a frenzy of emotion and yet intelligent in our choice of means to secure our ends.

We may here consider the place of symbolic forms and words in the emotional release of crowds. Many of the stereotypes of in-group superiority, such as honor, justice, freedom, love of country, and national security, are heavily freighted with emotion. As we know, the words often represent the undertone of repressed emotionalized drives which are covered over by these symbols. Nowhere do we see this better than in the way in which words are used to arouse a crowd to action. Cunning speakers will always play up all the old stereotypes and legends which command 

(523) responses of a violent sort. Because it reveals so many of our principles, we give at some length a description of expert methods in applied social psychology.

For some weeks the newspapers had reported the organization of the Ku Klux Klan in several cities in our state. About a week before the first meeting in our city the papers in both advertising and news columns announced that the Reverend Mr. X would lecture on the Ku Klux Klan in the city's largest theater.

On the night of the lecture I arrived at the theater early, to find it already nearly full. Within a quarter of an hour after my arrival there was not a vacant seat and people were standing up at the side and back. The preliminary tuning of the audience was going on all around me. Two men seated next to me were talking about the danger to our country from the increasing numbers and political power of the Catholics. One of them described the organization of the American Protective Association nearly a generation before. They assured one another that the Pope was trying to obtain control of the United States as rapidly as possible. There was no doubt that a papal plot existed. They described how the Catholics were organizing everywhere to capture the government by force of arms. "Do you know," one man remarked, "that every Catholic church contains an arsenal? In the basement of their churches arms and ammunition have been found." He gave concrete instances. He also informed his companion, and anyone else who was listening, that the Catholics, if they could, always built their churches on high ground overlooking the rest of the town, so that they could later be used for military observation. With "You don't say!" and "Is that so?" from others, the two continued to revive old legends and to stir the emotions into mild fear. All around there was a buzz of conversation. Everywhere in the house the conversations were the same: the Catholics are dangerous and some such organization as the Klan was desperately needed.

Promptly at eight o'clock the curtain was raised. The audience saw a small pulpit in the center of the stage; on one side, a cross flaming with electric lights, on the other, an American flag. From the wings then appeared a dozen hooded and white-robed figures who slowly moved into a semi-circle behind the pulpit. They bowed to each of the mighty symbols in turn and stepped to the back of the stage where they took up a formal position. The speaker of the evening stepped forward.

Before associating with the Klan, the Reverend Mr. X. had been a professional revivalist. He carried himself well and had a very pleasant and effective voice. In a calm and quiet way he said that he anal hit friends were there to tell the true story of the Klan. The Klan did not wish to defame or injure any church, creed, race, or color. The Reverend Mr. X. waxed warmer. The audience listened attentively, leaning forward in their seats to catch every word. A kind of tension actually seemed to run through the house.

Our America, said the Reverend Mr. X., has a glorious history. It is the great

(533) free country where every man has an equal opportunity, where bias and hardship are unknown. It is a Christian country, dedicated to freedom. But new and alien forces are appearing in our national life. The negroes are becoming race-conscious. We may lose control of our country to a race who would not, if they could, understand the real meaning of America. One purpose of the Klan, the organization which he had the honor to represent, was to preserve the dignity and virtue of white Protestant womanhood and to maintain law among a lawless race.

We have been too ready to welcome to our country foreigners who have no conception of our national life. In the goodness of our hearts, we have offered to thousands of Europeans a refuge in our country. Yet many of these people do not take up our American ways and remain hostile to the generous purposes of our government. The Catholic menace is especially serious. Catholics breed quickly and their numbers are increasing at an appalling rate. The Army and Navy are largely commanded by Catholic officers. Catholics insist on sending their children to their own parochial schools, where they are frequently taught the foreign languages of their parents. In short, there is every indication that the Catholics are making a remarkably successful attempt to seize control of our country. As the Pope has always destroyed freedom when he could, Catholic control of America means an end of our traditional liberties.

The Jews also are a menace, second only to that of negroes and Catholics. The Jews are a great power in the money world. Worse than that, they are also responsible for the Russian Communist Revolution and everywhere they are busily spreading the insidious Bolshevik propaganda. The Jew is a poor citizen; he has no attachment to this country and no interest in it save as a place to make money. But Bolshevism is the greatest Jewish menace. Unless we range ourselves solidly against it, we shall surely be destroyed.

The Japanese are also a serious menace. His audience, living on the Pacific Coast, knew already how the farmers in California were being crowded to the wall by the Japanese. The Japanese would inevitably spread, as they too breed rapidly, and in fact some communities in the very state where he was speaking had already felt their competition. The sole purpose of the Klan was to protect American virtues and standards. It was ever watchful of the national welfare and of Christian morals. And so the Reverend Mr. X. concluded.

He had had the undivided attention of his audience throughout. His occasional humor always brought laughter. He had thoroughly frightened his audience by telling them of all the out-groups which threatened their security and status. But he had assured them that by concerted action they could save themselves, and had made them righteously enraged and determined to combat the out-groups. In short, he had skillfully converted an audience into a crowd. As the leader of an angry, fearful, self-righteous crowd, he was heartily applauded when he finished.

When the speech was over, the hooded figures on the stage again bowed to the flag and the cross and filed out. The crowd was then shown a motion picture

(534) which confirmed their fears and rages. During the World War, an American industrial city was entirely given over to the manufacture of munitions of war. Laborers gladly cooperated with capitalist employers to speed the work. But a serpent had to crawl into this picture of an idyllic industrial system so filled with a noble purpose. Destructive radicals came to town and preached sedition to the contented workmen. The radical leader was a handsome and bewhiskered devil who received endless funds from Moscow. The radical agitation became intense. Strikes were declared and bombs were thrown. Chaos threatened the industry. But righteousness triumphed as American marines and indignant citizens finished off the foreign rascals. The audience gave the same attention to the moving picture that they had given to the Reverend Mr. X. It was a powerful confirmation of all that he had said. It played upon the same prejudices, used the same stereotypes, and increased their crowd determination to resist all such attacks by out-groups.

Now we should note that this community was almost exclusively Protestant and agricultural. In the entire state there were few Jews and fewer negroes. Very small groups of Japanese had appeared, but only in two or three of the fruit-growing districts. The one large city and a few scattered lumber camps had a numerically insignificant number of radicals. Nevertheless, the stereotypes and legends worked. In this town, a year later, two thousand men paraded as Klansmen. For several years the Klan dominated municipal and county politics. During the term of one governor and one legislature the Klan completely controlled the state government. The lecture and the film had been used all over the state, and though in many towns there were actually no Catholics or negroes or radicals, the appeals to prejudice had been just as effective. The powerful symbols had everywhere aroused fear and11 rage; and the desire for action against the out-groups had been successfully given the action pattern of voting Klan tickets. Thus the audiences became crowds, and each crowd member participated vicariously in the great crusade against the diabolical powers which threatened his security. His ego was satisfactorily expanded and he enjoyed complete self-righteousness.

B. A Theory of Crowd Behavior.

A crowd may be defined, then, as a contiguous and spatially distributed group which has a circularity of responses in common language and gesture toward each other, and shoulder-to-shoulder massing or polarization toward some object of attention. The crowd has sufficient numbers to pre-

(535) -vent intimate, face-to-face contact, especially in the presence of some stimulus which affords a common focus of attention. An audience has certain institutionalized features and the public is a non-contiguous grouping. The crowd is neither of these. Psychologically the crowd releases the inhibitions of attitudes that have been censored by group-sanctioned patterns of behavior. This release of repressed images and action patterns is facilitated by the dissociation of consciousness and behavior from that normally found in social intercourse. Repressed images and action patterns are released with greatest violence in crises involving the fundamental values of the group— the retention of status and survival itself. Crowds are relatively temporary, but their effects and the threat of their recurrence are highly important in social control.

The crowd is one of the most spontaneous forms of collective behavior. It may start from any combination of in-groups, even from the family if it is large enough. It may easily arise from neighborhood, gang, or interest groups whenever the members come into contiguous relation with each other. In the psychological mechanisms involved and in its meaning to the individual, the crowd is not a kind of collective mind. It is the cooperation of personalities at the lowest common denominator of reaction, namely, emotions and deep-laid habits which rest upon infantile conditionings and early formulations toward the in-group. Participation in crowds has for individuals many qualities of an ecstatic experience. The mass religious behavior of the Middle Ages shows that there is much in common between religious ecstasy and the emotional experience of the crowd man. Though religious crowds are still frequent, today crowds tend to form in crises involving our dominant contemporary values— racial, class, economic, and political. In all of these crowds the emotional heightening of the individual is evident. He is released from every-day routine and its repression of his deeper desires to have new adventures, and to dominate those whom he does not like but dares not attack alone. The reverberations of crowd violence are powerful; and as crises increase in number, crowd solutions for crises are likely to increase until crowd action is finally checked by some other social force.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapter XXII, Section A, pp. 627-58.


B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises from assignment in Source Book, Chapter XXII, nos. 1-24, pp. 664-65.

2. How does a crowd bring out our suppressed attitudes and unconscious tendencies?

3. Just how is the ego expanded in the crowd?

4. Cite illustrations of crowd behavior you have known. Analyze the inception and development of crowd activity.

C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.

1. See assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapter XXII, p. 666.

2. Report on Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, for a psychoanalytic interpretation of group behavior. Cf. McDougall, "Professor Freud's Group Psychology and His Theory of Suggestion," British Journal of Medical Psychology, 1925, vol. V, pp. 14-28.

3. Report on Durkheim's theory of collective behavior. (Cf. Elementary Forms of Religious Life.)



  1. Here we see the fact that the fundamental attitudes built up toward social groups and institutions grow out of and reflect fundamental psychological trends. We teach our children the superiorities of our own groups, and then we wonder how people in a crisis can be so violent and so insistent on the absolutely just and correct position of their own church, their own party, their own nation. Their insistence on what is obviously not so is merely an extreme expression of the basic conditions of social-cultural training.
  2. Thus even Allport, Social Psychology, 1924, pp. 312-313.
  3. Mrs. E. Vaught, "The Release and Heightening of Individual Reactions in Crowds," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1928, vol. XXII, pp. 404-05.

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