Aggression - Deindividuation

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Theroy based on the classic crowd theory of Gustave Le Bon which was how an individual was transformed when part of a crowd. Collective mind takes possession of the idividual. 

Its a psychologocial state characterised by lowered self-evaluation and decreased concerns about evaulation by others. Increase in behaviour not expected due to social norms. E.g. Anonymity - wearing a uniform


People normally refrain from acting in an aggressive manner as there are no social norms that accept this, as they are identifiable. Being anonymous in a crowd has the consequence of reducing inner restraints and increasing behaviours that are usually inhibited

Zimbardo: 'being part of a crowd can dimish self-awareness of their own individuality. Each person is faceless and anonymous. The larger the group the less identifiable

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Research into Anonymity

Zimbardo : Studied undergraduates. First group had covered faces and bulky lab coats, hoods and NO name tag. The second group had normal clothes, names tags and were facing each otherFindings: The group that had no name were shocked twice as much as they were unidentifiable, whereas thet group that were identifiable were shocked less. Therefore anonymity is a key component of deindividuation as when a individual is facelss and anonymous the person dimishes self-awareness of their own individuality and acts aggressively. 

Another study to support anonymity is by Rehm: He studied German school children, one group had orange shirts and the other group has mixed coloured clothing. They played handball and found the children in the orange shirts were more aggresssive when playing. 

THE FACELESS CROWD: Mullen: Analsyed newspaper cuttings of 60 lynching's in the US. And found that the more people in the mob the greater the aggressive behaviour to the victim. 

Mann: The baiting crowd: 21 suicide leaps in the US, and 10 out of the 21 had a crowd to watch them jump and they also urged them to jump. Baiting occured more at night in a large crowd as they were unidentifiable

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Reduced Self-awareness


Offer an alternative perspective to Zimbardos conclusion that anonymity is an important determinant. However reduced self-awareness rather than anonymity leads to deindividuation. If an individual is self-focused they are less likely to shows signs of deindividuation. Also if an individual submerges in a group and loses focus deindividuation occurs.  

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AO2 points

  • WEAKNESS: Johnson and Dowling: Completed a experiement with the same conditions to Zimbardo but with masks so it made person anonymous. They found that rather than showing aggression as a consequence of deindividuation, that behaviour produced could be a product of local group norms
  • LACK OF SUPPORT: Postmes and Spears: A meta-anaylsis of 60 studies of deindividuation concluded that there was insufficent support fot the major claims of deindividuation theory, particulary the claim that aggressive behaviour is more common in large groups and anonymous settings
  • PROSOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF DEINDIVIDUATION: some studies have shown that deindividuation may also increase the incidence of prosocial behaviour rather than anitsocial behaviour depending in situational factors 
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AO3 - Gender Bias

S: The theory of Deindividuation is gender bias towards males. 

E: Aggression as a result of deindividuation may be more of a male characterisitc than a female one. Cannavale et al found that male and female groups responded differently under deindividuation conditions. An increase in aggression was obstained only in the all-male groups.

E: Therefore the theory of deindividuation cannot be generalised to both genders as there is insufficent evience ( lacks validity) to support the claim that both males and females as a result of deindividuation behaviour aggressively. 

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AO3 - Reductionist

S: The theory of deindividuation is too simplistic and can be said to have a reductionist approach as it does not take into account other factors that. Such as that deindividuation may not always just cause aggressive behaviour

 E: Gergen et al (1973) - found that when in a dark room, participants hugged each other and felt sexually aroused. Deindividuation may not just cause aggressive behaviour, but anything restricted by social rules.

E: Therefore there is a lack of evidence to support the idea that agression is the on lead on from deindividuation. So the theroy cannot be generalised to all people as it lacks validity due to the fact that deindividuation does not always cause aggression but can cause anything restricted by social rules.

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