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Collective Behavior is relatively spontaneous and noninstitutionalized responses by a large number of people to uncertain and problematic situations. The key to distinguishing something as collective behavior (as opposed to mass behavior, which we will explore on the next page) is people have to be in the same physical space, and it is not planned.
Watch this quick video for a good example of a collective behavior we are all familiar with in our society:
After watching the video, answer the following questions:
1. What did the children’s body language indicate about the impact of discrimination?
2. How did the negative and positive labels placed on a group become self-fulfilling prophecies?
3. From what you’ve seen in this film, who do you feel is responsible for the existence and elimination of racism in our society? The school? Your parents? Religious leaders? The government? The heads of major corporations? The legal
Make sure to respond to at least two classmates for full credit.
Some theories about why collective behaviors like this happen are:
Contagion Theory – emotions combined with anonymity encourage people to act. So for this example, people are highly emotional, maybe they are tired, anxious, cold, (and those emotions are contagious and permeate the crowd), plus no one is singularly responsible for their behavior because they are just blended in with the group, so why not run and stampede others over, it wasn’t really you, that was just what the crowd was doing.
Convergence Theory – when people share attitudes and values which predispose them to act violently come together (mob). Again, with Black Friday, the theory would go, the people who are more likely to act out in aggressive ways are the ones who are going to go out and participate in that event. Otherwise, you will probably just stay at home, hey, there is always Cyber Monday.
Emergent Norm Theory – when people, such as in a crowd, look to each other for clues as to how they should behave and establish new group norms of judgment. From this perspective basically since this in an non-institutionalized occurrence with no established norms to pattern how we behave, we make up new norms in the moment that are compatible with this situation. So if you think of a stampede that happens as the gates to store open, even if someone falls and gets killed, in this space what is the norm? To run. Think back to a few weeks ago, if you stopped in the crowd and tried to get every one to stop running, what would you actually be — a deviant. And if you remember, even when we know it is right, being a deviant in society is a pretty difficult thing to be, especially in a moment like this.
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