Mass psychology, also termed as mob psychology or crowd psychology, studies how your behavior is influenced by large groups of people. For example, a mass psychologist is conducting social experiments regarding how individuals are affected by flash mobs (hyperlink). The theorists who are generally associated with this branch of social psychology include Gustave Le Bon, Sigmund Freud, Leon Festinger, and Floyd Allport.
Gustave Le Bon
Le bon specified that masses have three stages: submergence, contagion, and suggestion. Submergence is characterized by losing individual responsibility and identity; especially when the people do not know each other. For instance, during the first day of school, a big group of students in a classroom is generally identified as “Psychology 503 class”; they are not so concerned with cleanliness and may not be so concerned about each other’s’ welfare. During the contagion phase, the general ideas and emotions of the crowd are followed. For instance, the mood of each student is greatly affected by the dynamics of the class. In the suggestion stage, the members of the group have a shared unconscious which affect their decisions and feelings. For instance, the members of the Psych 503 class often talk about the importance of mental health and join related advocacies.
Freud suggested that being in a crowd reveals the unconscious since the superego (hyperlink) or the moral principle is displaced by the more powerful masses or more influential group leader. For instance, during the holocaust, many Germans blindly followed Hitler’s immoral orders. Leon Festinger and Philip Zimbardo
The concept of deindividuation was introduced by Festinger and his colleagues in 1952. Deindividuation theory explains that being in a crowd may lessen personal identity, guilt, self-evaluation, empathy, and other individual morality-related behaviors. This was then improved by Zimbardo with his Stanford Prison Experiment (hyperlink) which showed that the research participants’ concern for others lessened due to the group’s influence.
Allport’s Convergence theory posits that crowds are products of the gathering of people with similar interests. Hence, “birds of the same feather flock together." This view emphasizes that crowd behavior is not irrational; rather, it is a logical output of a pervasive conviction. For instance, groups of people gathered during a peaceful rally to express their support for a democratic governance.