Social Psychological Theories of Aggression - Deindividuation

Notes on the social psychological theories of aggression, focusing on deindividuation. With research examples and evaluative points.

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  • Created on: 15-06-11 10:49
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Aggression -
Social psychological theories of aggression:
Losing their sense of individual identity deindividuates people. Individuals are
seen as normally refraining from aggressive acts, because they would be
identifiable and therefore held to blame - but in situations such as crowds,
social restraints and personal responsibility are perceived to be lessened, so
displays of aggressive behaviour occur.
It can be said that as a result of normative social influence, deindividuation
causes people to unquestioningly follow group norms instead of personal
norms, which sometimes leads individuals to display aggressive behaviour.
Zimbardo sees people in crowds as being anonymous, with lessened
awareness of individuality and a reduced sense of guilt, or fear of punishment.
The bigger the crowd, the more this will be.
Prentice-Dunn and Rogers (1982) believe that individuals normally have
awareness of personal moral codes, but being in a crowd diminishes private
awareness, so instead they follow the group norms.
Malmuth and Check (1981) found that nearly a third of male university
students in the US would rape if there was no chance of them getting
Zimbardo (1963) replicated Milgram's electric shock study, but the
participant was either individuated with a name tag or deindividuated by
wearing a hood. The deindividuated participants gave more shocks,
supporting the idea of deindividuation.
Diener et al (1976) found that anonymous `trick-or-treating' children in
the USA took more money or sweets than non-anonymous children,
supporting the notion of deindividuation.
Silke (2003) found that people who disguised perpetrated 41% of
violent assaults in Northern Ireland. The more severe the assault, the

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Watson (1973) conducted a cross-cultural study and found that worriors
who disguised their appearance - for example, through face paint -
tended to be more aggressive, suggesting that deindividuation effects
are universal.
Deindividuation in crowds can lead to increased pro-social behaviour,
for example religious gatherings.
The idea that people lose their personal moral codes when
deindividuated is evidently not true, as many people are not negatively
affected by crowds.
Deindividuation has been used to explain the phenomenon of football
hooliganism.…read more


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