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Outline and evaluate one social psychological theory of aggression -
A01 - Deindividuation describes the loss of any personal characteristics of identity which
leads to a change in thinking of the individual. When you become anonymous, you have a
lowered sense of self awareness, leading to irrational behaviour. Individuals' behaviour
changes in large crowds. The combination of anonymity, suggestibility and contagion means
that a collectivist mind takes possession of the individual. As a consequence the individual
loses self-control and becomes capable of acting in a way that goes against personal or
social norms. LeBon suggested that there are three important factors of anonymity:
increased arousal, reduced responsibility and sensory overload, which in turn lead to
deindividuation and therefore aggression. Dunn and Rogers refined the explanation of
deindividuation of deindividuation by suggesting a staged loss of self-awareness. Firstly is
the loss of public self-awareness where the individual is concerned about the impression
they give but maintains their own private morals. This can be reduced by anonymity or
diffusion of responsibility, leading to a loss of public standards of behaviour and lowers our
inhibitions. Secondly is private self-awareness, where the individual is no longer aware of
their own identity or feelings, truly taking on the behaviour of the crowd.
P Research conducted by Zimbardo supports the theory of deindividuation. E He
conducted a lab experiment where women dressed in white lab coats and wore hoods.
Others wore their ordinary clothes and had name tags. Participants shocked actual and
confederate victims. He found that those who were deindividuated gave longer shocks. This
supports deindividuation because when the participants were anonymous they acted in a
more aggressive manner. E However there are methodological issues in that it was a lab
experiment, therefore it lacks ecological validity. It can't explain aggression in the real world
as it is far more spontaneous or pre-meditated. The study therefore lacks external validity.
The findings cannot be generalised to outside a lab setting and therefore are
unrepresentative. L Although the study supports deindividuation we must be cautious due
to the methodology.
P Further supportive research comes from Mann. E He analysed 21 reports of suicides in
American newspapers from the 1960s 1970s. In 10 cases he identified a baiting crowed. He
found that baiting was more likely to occur with large crowds at night and when there is
some distance between the crowd and the person threatening suicide. This suggests that
people will become deindividuated and aggressive in larger crowds and when they are
anonymous at night. E However a content analysis was conducted, meaning that there
could have been an element of researcher bias. He may have only chosen studies to support
his hypothesis, meaning that unsupportive findings will have been ignored. This means that
the study will lack internal validity and may be unrepresentative. L The study does support
deindividuation however the methodology needs to be considered.
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AIDS There is real life application. The desirable effects of deindividuation can also be found
on the internet. Teenagers reported feeling significantly more comfortable seeking help with
mental health problems under the deindividuated circumstances of internet classrooms
compared to individual circumstances of a personal appointment with a health professional.
This means that deindividuation can be used to define other behaviours; it is not just
confined to aggression.
AIDS There is an issue of gender bias. Cannavale et al.…read more