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Deindividuation (social psychological theory)
Deindividuation refers to a psychological state in which individuals have lowered levels of
selfevaluation (e.g. when they are in a crowd or under the influence of alcohol) and decreased
concerns about the evaluation by others. People are more likely to be aggressive if they have a
loss of individuality, which leads to reduced self restraint, leading to impulsive behaviour.
There are three main factors that contribute to Deindividuation:
Crowds or large crowds
Anonymity ­ wearing a uniform or a mask
Altered Consciousness ­ drunk or drugged state
Zimbardo believed that individual behaviour was rational and complied with societal norms.
Whereas, Deindividuation behaviour was based on primitive urges and therefore did not
comply with societal norms.
It is said that the larger the crowd, the more anonymous/ less responsible a person will feel so
they are more likely to go against social norms, such as aggression. This is because there is less
fear of getting caught and a reduced sense of guilt.
Research support for Deindividuation:
Zimbardo ­ carried out the Stanford Prison Experiment. This supported the idea of
Deindividuation because the guards wore uniforms, which made their personality change and
the prisoners had their individuality taken away from them as they were given uniforms and their
names were taken away and were given numbers instead. This resulted in verbal aggression and
sadistic behaviour shown. He also carried out another study where female students were asked
to deliver shocks to fellow students ­ those wore robes and a hood (they were deindividuated)
administered the most shocks compared to those whose identities were not hidden.
Rehm et al ­ he carried out a study where German school children were either given uniform to
wear during a sports game or everyday clothes. They found that the children wearing uniform
played more aggressively than those in everyday clothes. This supports Deindividuation and the
idea that a state of anonymity does lead to aggression.
Faceless Crowd (Mullen) ­ he analysed the lynch mobs in 1899 and 1946 and found that the
more people in the mob, the greater the savagery of the killing. This also supports
Deindividuation because it shows that when there are more people in the crow, there is a
greater loss of individuality that was more likely to occur.
Baiting Crowd (Mann) ­ looked at and studied 21 suicides from newspapers and found that
where there was encouragement, the further away the crowd was, the larger the crowd and if it
was at nighttime, the more likely the person was to commit suicide.
Contradictory evidence:
Nurses VS Klu Klux Klan ­ Johnson and Downing found that normative cues are important. It
is not to do with Deindividuation but about the uniform that they were wearing and what they
thought of it.
Meta Analysis ­ this produced mixed results and said that there was not enough good research
support to say that putting someone in a crowd or wearing a uniform will lead to aggression and
was not enough to say that.

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Cultural and Gender differences ­ In large crowds, it is more likely to be aggressive if it is
just males. This could possible be due to their testosterone levels and the idea of competition ­
fight or flight. Whereas females are more likely to tend or befriend.
Reductionist ­ this says that it is way to simplistic to say that Deindividuation will lead to
aggression. It needs other cues to make a difference.…read more


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