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Discuss one social psychological theory
One social psychological theory of aggression is the deindividuation theory of aggression and
environmental determinism. It is suggested that being in a crowd can diminish awareness of our
individuality because we are anonymous so there is a lower fear of retribution and sense of guilt.
According to Zimbardo, being part of a crowd can diminish self awareness of our own individuality.
Also, Pentice-Dunn believed being in a crowd lead to a lack of public (impression presented to
others) and private (concern for own thoughts and feelings) awareness. This can ultimately lead to
aggression because anonymity causes a diffusion of responsibility and therefore a loss of internal
Diener proposed that the reason for deindividuation leading to decreased self awareness can be
abbreviated to PRRR. So there is a poor self monitoring of behaviour, a reduced need for social
approval, a reduction in the inhibitions against impulsive behaviours and a reduction in rational
thinking. This can lead to aggression because there is a loss of identity, for example, in a mob so the
individuals feel less constrained by the norms of social behaviour therefore start to behave in an
Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, illustrated the role of deindividuation in insitutions where
people are removed from their normal environment. In this experiment participants were randomly
assigned guard or prisoner. Zimbardo found that the idea of guards having uniforms and reflector
sunglasses that prevented eye contact that led to deindividuation. The guards felt a sense of
anonymity and so felt they could be more aggressive. The prisoners had a lower sense of personal
identity and therefore displayed psychological and physical aggression.
The deindividuation theory is an environmentally deterministic explanation of aggression, therefore
it emphasises the external forces that cause aggression. There is a large amount of supporting
evidence for this theory. For example, Zimbardo found that females who wore clothes that
effectively cloaked them gave much higher levels of shocks to the other participants than uncloaked,
Therefore suggesting that because their identities were hidden they were deindividuated so felt
they could act more aggressively.
The theory has led to practical applications in how police deal with crowds. For example, police aim to
target individuals rather than punish the crowd. This leads to the crowd feeling less deindividuated
and therefore being more likely to accept responsibility for their individual behaviour. Therefore this
supports the fact that the environment of being part of a crowd is what leads to aggression.
However, there is evidence against environmental determinism as deindividuation does not always
lead to aggressive behaviour. For example, people in crowds such as peaceful protests do not tend
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Therefore it might be more appropriate to consider
deindividuation as an example of soft determinism and factors such as the disposition of the crowd
and their reasons for being there.…read more