Social psychological approaches to explaining aggression: deindividuation

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Social psychological approaches to explaining aggression- deindividuation
Le bon suggested individuals are more likely to be aggressive when they are part
of a large group. He said that aggressive behaviour is contagious and therefore
individuals have no choice over whether they become aggressive or not.
Zimbardo then suggested that deindividuation can occur for 2 different reasons:
Sense of anonymity in a group meaning you have lower feelings of guilt.
Lower inhibitions because of increased arousal
He said that a sense of anonymity can be caused by wearing something to hide your
identity such as a mask, being in a crowd, or in the dark and this also leads to
Also lowered inhibitions can be caused by alcohol, drugs and arousal from a crowd
leading to deindividuation.
Diener suggested that deindividuation occurs when 4 factors occur which are
anonymity, increased arousal, strong group feelings, external focus. These lead to
reduced self awareness resulting in deindividuation and increased aggression.
Prentice-Dunn and Rogers suggested that deindividuation is caused by 2 types of
self awareness:
Reduced private self awareness- lower inhibitions, don't consider the
consequences of their actions
Reduced public self awareness- reduced sense of identity
These both lead to deindividuation and aggression
Female undergraduates gave electric shocks to another student. They were told it
was to aid learning. Half the participants wore bulky coats and hoods that hid
their faces. They were spoken to in groups of 4 and never referred to by name.
The other half wore normal clothes and large name tags and were introduced to
each other by name. They could see each other when seated at the shock machines
and when the student was shocked. All participants were told something about the
character of the learner before the experiment to make the learner sound nice or
horrible. Found that hooded participants gave twice as many shocks and the
amount of shocks didn't vary with the description of the learner. Those with name
tags were influenced by the description of the learner when delivering shocks.

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This shows that anonymity is encouraged by wearing masks, hoods and leads to
increased aggression.
Low population validity- only females used so we can't generalise to males
Content analysis of 21 newspaper articles about potential suicides threatening to
jump off a tall building and found that in 10 cases people were more likely to
shout jump when part of a crowd, when it was dark or when there is a large
distance between them and the victim.…read more

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Shows that whilst deindividuation may occur in real life, the theory may be gender
biased. This supports the idea that anonymity and strong group feelings lead to
deindividuation, although it undermines the theory by suggesting it is gender
Studied 23 societies of primitive communities, 13 of whom killed and mutilated
their victims. 12 of these 13 hid their identity. This shows that anonymity leads to
deindividuation.…read more


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