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The term crowd refers to a mass gathering of people while violence refers to acts of aggression meted out to people. It is prudent to comprehend crowd violence so as to sustain appropriate and timely crowd administration ideologies. Identifying causes of crowd violence and measures that should be taken to mitigate it, is what researchers are mandated with. Identification of features that determine the safety of the public in events that are crowded, has formed the center of research by various institutions in the past (McPhail 1989).
Emerging research findings have identified various factors that impact on crowd violence. These include size of the crowd, crowd containment and weather. This paper provides the psychological, biological and social correlates of crowd violence. There are two important salient features of crowd violence: the first is that there must be a seed or a causative agent and the second is that people must be allowed to engage. If the nature of these behaviors is understood then it could provide an avenue to mitigate crowd violence.
Theories behind the Psychological, Biological and Sociological Correlates of Crowd Violence
The Group mind tradition theory whose proponents are Le Bon as well as Blumer and Park states that individuals lose their sense of self responsibility when they become part of large gatherings. They obtain a sense of invincible power and become subject to the primitive behavior which can easily lead to violence.
The Predisposition theory which was proposed by Killian and Tuner proposes that a collective action is highlighted in terms of individual tendencies that already existed meaning that violence arises from personalities that are antisocial (Turner et al. 1995). The Emergent norm theory which was also proposed by Killian and Tuner states that emergence norms underpin the occurrence of collective behavior. Crowd milling movements and rumors assist the materialization of new behaviors which mostly are just a modification of existing behaviors. As much as this theory restores the link between the comprehension of the individual and crowd actions, it fails to bring out how crowds do achieve unity within a short period of time.
Potter and Reicher are proponents of the Inter group perspective theory which states that there is an ardent need to understand and recognize the different cognitive and social perspectives of the two antagonistic groups that may lead to crowd violence (Reicher 2001). This theory emphasizes on the need to deal with interaction between groups as well as the importance of negativity in such interactions. Besides, it points out failure to comprehend members’ intentions as some of the critical dynamic processes that had been overlooked by the other theories before it. According to this theory the ‘in group’ stands for a group of people with a shared common purpose and social norm, for instance, people supporting a certain football team in the premier league. People who are not at par with the in-group’s sense of social identity thus ending up resisting their ideology form what is referred to as an ‘out group.’ For example, an out-group can be football supporters of an opposite team or can also be the police who are intervening in any clashes. When an ‘in group’ and an ‘out-group’ find themselves in one situation, crowd violence is likely to occur.
Waddington, Jones and Critcher (1987), proponents of the Model of disorder theory list six disorder levels as: 1) Structural which entails relative distribution of resources and power, 2) Ideological and Political which entails activities related to pressure groups and political institutions, 3) Cultural which entails how people comprehend a social group and the place they partake in such a group, 4) Contextual which involves the dynamic and temporal settings that include the media and rumor sensitization, 5) Situational which involves a particular gathering context and 6) Interactional which is about behaviors that go against the unwritten laws that govern the way of coexistence between the various groups. According to this theory it’s difficult to premeditate disorder but it’s possible to partially predict it as well as make it explicable (Waddington et al. 1987).
Mc Garty, Turner, Haslam and Oakes are the proponents of Social identity theory that is based on the self categorization theory that has been expounded by the same authors. The main point of this theory is that social influence and collective behavior are possible only on conditions of shared self, shared identity sense or categorization (Turner et al. 1995). Reicher and Dury are proponents of the elaborated social identity theory which emphasizes that large groups are as a result of encounters between a number of groups.
This theory also demystifies how identification within a group may develop as an intergroup dynamics function. Conflicts here usually come up whenever two groups hold irreconcilable and incompatible notions of suitable social practice. In this case, one of the group’s actions is deemed to be violating notions of what is deemed right by the other group. The conflict goes along with changes that members go through during self categorization. The dynamics between groups thus determines the development and onset of crowd violence (Reicher 2001).
Crowd Violence as an Instinctive and Biological Phenomenon
Crowd violence entails a set of behaviors that are complex and vary in consequences, structure, context and content. The scientific notion that crowd violence could be innate and goes back to Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein. The League of Nations invited Einstein to find a way of delivering the world from the war instincts in 1932. Freud’s death instinct was discovered after this task where he and Einstein discovered that human beings have within them an instinct which seeks to destroy and kill. Freud’s death instinct was of the view that man always wants to go back from where he came from thus the stronger the death instinct is in an individual the more the tendency would be for such an individual to direct aggression towards people and objects.
Instinctive aggression theories brought up by Freud’s association of violence to a death instinct and Lorenz’s perception of violence as a survival enhancing instinct assume that all the men possess autonomous sources of aggressive impulses. According to Lorenz the violent drive reveals tempting outbreaks that reoccur regularly. Lorenz and Freud apply this phenomenon to both the crowd and individual violence.
Reicher and Dury on their part suggest that Biology is directly connected to crowd violence, whereby males are more predisposed to aggression as compared to females. It’s argued that the amount of sex hormones is directly related to the amount of aggression exhibited by the sexes. Cross cultural evidence on sexes support the fact that hostility and sex differences are rooted in biological features (Reicher 2001).
Research shows that violence amongst the youth is biologically connected to the rate of their heart beat. Male youths who have low rates of heart beats tend to be more violent than their counterparts.
Sociological Correlates of Crowd Violence
Studies indicate that crowd violence behavior is primarily or solely learned and strategically used to service certain goals, especially aggression by adolescents and children in their effort to get attention, by adults when they want to indicate that they are dominant and by groups when competing for scarce resources (Waddington et al., 1987). The fact that crowd violence is a response that is learned, dispassionately employed and chosen rationally is common to a number of civil strives and crowd violence behavior observed in the recent past. People engage in crowd violence as a way of doing what their actors have chosen them to do with the aim of deterring, punishing or symbolically demonstrating their capability to act; particularly where it’s used as a means to an end by politicians.
It’s assumed that people result in crowd violence as a result of frustration. Where their objective is to achieve certain goals is interfered with biologically, there is an innate tendency to deal with the interfering person physically. Learning is used to modify this tendency. In the learning process the aggressor is taught about the frustrating person and ways of responding aggressively (Burton 1997).
Potter and Reicher argue that people tend to act in relation to the social norms that are allowed to exist within a crowd so that they may have a sense of belonging to the entire network. An individual’s desire to act in accordance with the behavior of the crowd is driven by the urge to avoid being disapproved and thus gain social approval. If aggressive behavior becomes the popular view of the circumstances at hand, then they would result in crowd violence. Therefore in such a social setting, individuals who are not aggressive may be pressured by peers to become aggressive (Reicher 2001).
Psychological Factors That Have an Impact on Crowd Violence
Crowd behavior and moods are considered salient features that result in crowd violence if not monitored closely. This is because they are influenced by environmental situational and dynamism changes, social conditions as well as spectator personalities. In relation to this, various studies concur that the elaborated theory of crowd interaction and action should be implemented by people coming up with forms of group identification based on a number of aspects such as racial, ethnic and religious team loyalties. Crowd behavior is thus comprehended as intergroup interaction because major differences arise from out group approaches, for instance the police resorting to crowd violence particularly when the outgroup fails to differentiate between the two groups in a crowd where the protagonists are in violence. Intergroup dynamics are therefore critical to the beginning and development of crowd violence.
Empowerment phenomenon experienced by the subgroups and individuals in a crowd has a critical influence on a crowd behavior and mood. For instance, in an open space where some workers were evicted from a town hall for demonstrating against poll tax, it was discovered that power feelings increased amongst members of the crowd as a result of the more inclusive classification that was undertaken on them, which came about as a result of their illegitimate elimination from the town hall. Crowd members empowered action was restricted by their common definition of proper practice. In such cases it’s observed that if members of the crowd profess to being treated in an illegitimate manner, boundaries of the group expand to include persons who might have been previously treated as outsiders. Group boundaries usually lead to crowd empowerment.
This is supported by a study done on issues used to discredit crowd actions for instance the 2000 antipole crowd action in Britain where those who endorsed crowd action had little power in themselves to act but as soon as they received collective support, their beliefs were channeled in action. This is because it’s the crowd that empowers (Reicher 2001).
Reicher (2001) asserts that there are two factors that lead to crowd violence. Firstly there must be a seed which in this case could be a small group or an individual who engages a crowd to take action that the crowd would wish to join. As the crowd engages the seed, crowd violence is observed. Engagement of the crowd occurs when the seed modifies the norms that do exist and provides a shared sense of identity (Reicher 2001).
Crowd psychology theory which relates to the seed behavior is based on the creation of out groups and in groups as well as the idea of changing people’s behavior in the crowd. As much as seed behavior is present in most if not all the crowds, a wider engagement on this behavior is needed to be done. ‘Human waves’ also referred to as ‘Mexican waves’ are an example of this engagement and are mainly found in sporting events. Collective behavior is used here to depict large parts of the crowd following few disgruntled elements that are determined to commit a terrible atrocity.
To intervene in crowd behavior, there is a need for research to be done which solely focuses on crowd behaviors so as to identify any changes that occur in them. The planning and preparation of crowds gives an opportunity to identify crowds that are at risk. Models that limit seed behavior as well as wider crowd engagement need to be developed. These models should include personnel education for emergency services, techniques and tools development as well as ways of limiting crowd engagement. Seed behavior can be predicted through key elements of this behavior such as consuming alcohol excessively, rising of hooliganism and individual aggression signs (McPhail 1989).