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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mob Mentality: Avoiding the Trap of GroupThink

The de-evolution of societal norms is becoming such a common occurence that we are seeing it's like on an almost daily basis. A good example is demonstrated in a recent display of mob mentality at a High School Prep ralley in Florida. In this particular example,  a football referee was violently attacked by a group of angry coaches and players, due to a collective impression of bias associated with unfavorable calls affecting the outcome of the team's score. Individually, the probability of any of the coaches or players involved physically attacking the referee is negligible at best. However, as a group, they created a seperate identity with normative values uniqully assigned to their shared purpose resulting in an angry mob bent on getting their way by any means available. In short, a 'mob mentality.'
A mob mentality is a mind set that often occurs when a crowd takes on an identity of its own, seperate and devoid of the distinct identities of the individuals that embody the collective, yet joined by a shared sense of purpose. According to Don Forsyth, a professor at The Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond, "the concept of mob mentality first developed in the 1800s, when French sociologist Gustave Le Bon wrote The Crowd." Per a recent article by Lacey Schley, of Medill,  Forsyth further proposed that one possible theory explaining the origin of a central group identity is the social psychology concept of "deindividuation." Phil Zimbardo, a social scientist and professor at Stanford University, most noted for his classic 1971 psychosocial experiment entitled The Stanford Prison Experiment, in which graduate students voluteered to enact the roles of either inmate or prison guard. As a result, Zimbardo is considerd to be the foremost authority on the conceptual theory of deindividuation, which is a social therory that posits the embracement of the group cultural identity in place of individual values.    
Avoiding the contagion of mob mentality in modern society is not easy, but it can be done. 'Group think' can be avoided by being aware of yourself in relation to others. Angry mobs, violent or aggresive behavior, dissolutionment, verbal anger and public discontent, dialectic politics, etc, are all signs of mob mentality, group think, and deindividuation. Monitoring your own behavior when alone and within a group is the key. With awareness, we can regulate the amount of deviation between our individual values and those associated with a group. Angry outbursts, public violence, verbal and physical aggression are all traits that are the antithesis of societal norms, yet accepted within the group culture resulting from a sense of safety associated with the collective. You do not have to allow youself to become a mob member, or surrender your individual beliefs. Personal vigilence and social awareness will assist with the deescalation of anger, violence and other symptoms of a mob mentality.

If you would like more information regarding anger management, regulating emotions, avoiding angry outbursts or other symptoms of violence please visit our website at www.nvamc.com or call us at 1-888-992-6479.

For more information regarding mob mentality, the Stanford Prison Experiment, or the violence at the High School prep rally please visit the following websites.

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=205860