Deindividuation, a term first used by social psychologists Leon Festinger, Albert Pepitone and Theodore Newcomb in 1952 where a person may feel they can act impulsively without social repercussions and commit actions that they wouldn't normally do, this is particular in groups or crowds. When a person is deindividuated their sense of identity is reduced which temporarily affects their ethical and moral codes which makes them more suggestible to situational influence; you are basically just ''letting yourself go''. Deindividuation can explain a range of irrational and bold behaviours such as riots, criminal activities taking place at night or dark alley ways, gang related crime and much more.
Factors that contribute towards deindividuation.
Regarding deindividuation anonymity provides cloak away from social disapproval when committing an act which doesn't the follow social norms. In a classic study conducted by Philip Zimbardo in 1969 which is very similar to Stanley Milgrims electrical shock experiment where a group of participants were to give electrical shocks to another set of participants. The first group wore a lab coat and a mask to conceal their identity and create a sense of anonymity while the second group wore casual clothing with a name tag. It was concluded that the participants who wore the lab coats and mask were more likely to administer an electrical shock to their ''victims'' and for longer than the participants who were in casual clothing. A recent study in 2003 conducted by psychology professor Andrew Silke who found that in Northern Ireland 203 out of 500 violent attacks occurring July 1994 and December 1996 were committed by individuals who wore disguises. This goes to show that anonymity increases the likelihood of antisocial behaviour and may even encourage uninhibited actions that they would not otherwise do because they feel less like they are being watched ''socially'' if their identity is concealed .
Diffused self awareness in a group
Similar to anonymity; a diffused sense of self awareness in a group creates a situation where an individual is less likely to focus on their own actions and more likely to take part in behaviours that deviate from social norms. Psychologist Edward Diener in 1976 conducted a study on the psychology of self awareness which included 3 groups (1) the self aware group (2) the non self aware group (3) and the deindividuated group, each group participated in an activity which were designed to create either of the three levels of conditions. Using these activities Diener measured the subjects disinhibitions. In the self aware group the participants spoke quietly and acted nervously and did not form any group unity of such as they were forced to ask questions about each others backgrounds and interests. The second group which was the non self aware group were friendly to each other but did not form any group unity, this group completed puzzles and other non-deindividuating activities. The deindividuated group performed group activities which encouraged group unity such as singing together.
The results showed that the subjects in the deindividuated group felt more unity, liked the group more and unlike the other groups they acted more spontaneously, were less self aware, felt a loss of identity and lastly felt uninhibited. Diener concluded that these deindividuated group activities and behaviours would keep their attention focused anywhere but themselves, this prevention of self awareness in the deindividuated state disables self regulation meaning that the individual is unable to engage in cognitive functions used to guide their behaviour such as the concept of the self, making them more vulnerable to influence by external factors.
It has also been found that arousal promotes deindividuation, arousal can be emotional such as anger, joy, excitement and also the feeling of fear, while arousal can also be physical where the body has an adrenal rush in preparation for engaging in sport, exercise, a fight or something similar which involves a large amount of physical energy.
In Washington there was a study investigating group presence and arousal in deindividuation lead by Edward Diener. This study was conducted on Halloween involving 841 trick or treaters and 23 selected homes which were set up so the children can be watched taking candy from the bowl without the observers being seen themselves. In one group of homes the children were physically aroused by playing a game of simon says while another group were aroused through taped ghost like noises, also some of the homes experimental conditions were groups of children vs one child at a time. The young participants were instructed to take one candy at a time. The results indicated that the children that were in groups were more anti-social than those that were alone, while both arousal conditions had a stealing effect. Children that were physically aroused by playing simon says were significantly more anti-social than the children listening to taped ghost like noises. To summarize, groups that exhibit high arousal can have an energizing effect on each person, which in turn makes them more excited and disindividuated reducing self awareness also having less concern with their how others perceive them making them more likely to commit to bold behaviour hence the good old ''mob mentality''.
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