Deindividuation and aggression

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  • Created by: ava.scott
  • Created on: 14-11-14 12:59


Deindividuation is the process by which people lose sense of their socialised individual self and start acting in a unsocialised, even anti social way.

  • People refrain from aggressive acts because they are easily identifyable and belong to societies that have strong norms against uncivilised behaviour.
  • Milgram found that people administered higher shocks when they couldn't see or be seen by the victim.
  • Individuated behaviour is based on rational ideas and confroms to society.
  • Deindividuated behaviour is based on primitive instincts, urges and does not conform.
  • Public awareness is having an idea of what otherr people are thinking about you;
  • private self awareness is regulating your own bhevaiour. Deindividuation lowers both.
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AO1 Deinidividuation


  • Individual behvaiour is rational and conforming, whereas deindivduated is primitive and non conforming.
  • Deindividuation comes with losing your ability to self regulate, resulting in aggression.
  • Anonymity can help deindividuation, so being a group/uniform/the dark can assist this.
  • This reduces our fears of negative evaluation from others, and feelings of guilt subside.


  • Deindividuation relies solely on private self awareness; public self awareness is relate to being identifyable and anonymity, and this is less important in deindividuation.
  • Decreased private self awareness can result in anti-social behvaiour, as they lose their own morals and begin acting with the group. They begin acting from external cues, which may be aggressive.
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Deindividuation: Supporting evidence Watson

John Watson;

  • analyse 23 cultures
  • found that 80% of warriors in appearance-changing cultures, were more destructive to their victims (mutilating, killing, torturing) than cultures without this tradition.

This supports (Zimbardo's) deindividuation, as anonymity and uniform resulted in much more violent behaviour, as deindivusation suggests.

  • (However, if violence is encouraged in these cultures, why would anonymity increase it? IMPOSED ETIC?)
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supporting evidence; Diener


  • conducted a naturalistic study when hidden raters observes 1300 children who were under certain conditions, whether they took a opportunity to steal.
  • They found that more stealing occurred in higher anonymity, in a presence of a group and when the child had not been issued a responsibility.

This supports deindividuation, as being in a group and low anonymity resulted in more anti social behaviour.

Is stealing aggressive?

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supporting evidence: Zimbardo


  • assigned participants into two groups; one in a white cloaks and hoods and no names, the other in normal clothes with name tags.
  • Those is white outfits shocked at higher voltages than the normal clothed participants

This supports deindividuation, as those with higher anonymity and no identity were more aggressive, perhaps due to lower levels of proivate and public self-awareness.

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Deindividuation: Challenging Evidence

In a repeat of Zimbardos experiment,

  • other researchers asked participants to wear a surgical gown and mask.
  • The unamed nurses gave much lower levels of shocks than a normally dressed group.
  • This shows that social constructs around a role, and the expected behaviour of this role, is more powerful than deindividaution.
  • This suggest that not all anonymity leads to aggresion, and that private self awareness could be replaced by stereotypical morals.

This is bad for the theory, as it shows that humans don't rely on their individuality to be moral and unaggressive; even without individuality, they still act on previous ideas. Deindividuation does not always result in aggression.


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Research evaluation

  • High ecological validity- Watson and Dieners studies are naturalistsic, and show how particpants may act normally. This means ther esearch can be gernalsied to nromal settings.
  • High population validity- Wston studied many cultures and found similar patterns.
  • ARTFICIAL- Zimbardos study uses more artficila settings- electric shocks aren't a usual expression fo aggression, and so people's ease of choosing high votage here cannot be generalised to other types of aggression.
  • Imposed Etic- Watsons studies may assume that teh cuktures he studie have the same moral ideas surrounding violence. Perhaps it is not shunned by tehse cultrues,a nd so it would not need deindividuatin to express, as public self awarenes would promote it. 

The warriors which are more aggressive may just be more traditional,a nd with tese traditions comes a more violent and ritualistic way of treating prisoners/victims. Deindividuation may nto cause greater violence.

  • Low face validity- Dieners resrearch measured likelyood of theivery-- is this aggressive behaviour, or just immoral behaviour? The white hodos and cloaks in zimbardos study may have catalysed aggressive behaviour due to preconceptions about the KKK. Does teh study measure strength of stereotypes or deindividuation?
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Deindividuation: Implications and Applications

The knowledge of deindividuation and it's causes is very useful in crowd control.

  • CCTV reduced anonymity and increases chance of being caught.
  • Restrict alcohol as it encourages deindividuation.
  • Police presence
  • Lights-- reduces anonymity
  • Restrict uniform clothes-- football tshirts, hoodies
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Deindividuatin: Comparisons with other theories

Doesnt explain all aggression:

e.g. impulsive aggression is much better explained by biology. Testosterone and low serotonin allows amygdala to be impulsively aggressive.

e.g. domestic abuse. Your partner knows exactly who you are, so deindividuating is unlikely.

e.g. group violence. This could be better explained by evolutionary or biological approach.

  • Hormones and chemcial signals could inspire violence in a group, and evolutionarily it makes sense to be aggressive in a group, as it increases chance of survival, and even status increase.
  • Deinidividuation only explains group violence and crowd hooliganism. This is not great for the theory because it reduces the scope of its applications.

The theory is restricted in what aggression it can explain, making it less compelling and valid

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Deindividuation: IDA


  • When in a crowd/deindividuated, everyone will have less personal self-awareness, and so will be more likely to act aggressively.
  • This means we have less free-will over our decisions, and cannot control this behvaiour.
  • This is socially sensitive as it perhaps justifies group/crowd violence, and also removes responsibility from the individual.
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