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Mob mentality is manipulative and merciless

Mob mentality is manipulative and merciless

Mob mentality is manipulative and merciless
March 10
20:26 2022

Mob mentality, or herd mentality, is a psychological phenomenon we have likely all experienced in one form or another. It could’ve been something minor like not liking a person because your friends didn’t like them or not watching a film because people were tweeting about how horrible it was. While this is a form of mob mentality, it can still grow and progress into something that is far more erratic and unstable. 

Herd mentality is a disposition of people to think and behave in groups rather than as individuals. It describes how humans are easily influenced or persuaded to adopt behaviors in a group setting. To put it in simple words: it is following other people.

This comes from a human’s natural desire to be included and accepted as part of the majority. These groups can develop to be indifferent about changes within their environment or develop a distaste for anything that goes against the “norm” within the crowd. 

Much of their time is spent copying one another and not making decisions for themselves. It can range from simple acts like following internet culture, which is why you see people trying ridiculous fads simply because it’s trending. This is the reason trends circulate the internet so much and why people either contribute to it or deny it. It comes from the innate desire to feel included and be part of the herd. 

However on a larger scale, this mentality could lead to dangerous movements. As we have seen in past events — like the storming of the Capitol — mob mentality can lead to dangerous actions, especially when they are racially motivated or there is prejudice involved.

It is a natural thing to want to feel included, but at what cost? We sacrifice our individual morals and values only to be part of a majority. 

There are four psychological theories that can address these crowd behaviors. Foremost, the contagion theory, like the name, is the contagious influence of collective behavior within masses that is irrational.

An instance of this was during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement where protests were held in various cities, that then escalated into riots by certain people in attendance. It turned into a frenzy of violence, shooting and looting once the majority of people joined in on the acts that were started by only a few. 

Convergence theory addresses group thinking by arguing that crowds do not influence individuals to act emotionally but the crowd’s behavior is reflective of the individuals’ preconceived notions. As cited earlier, this theory was applied during the Jan. 6 riot when self-proclaimed “patriots” stormed the Capitol. This was a mob gathering of people who fiercely believed their rights were at risk and came together in a violent manner to put an end to it.

Subsequently, we have emergent norm theory which suggests new behavioral norms are developed and adopted as a response to a current crisis. These groups abandon their prior conceptions of acceptable behavior to find new ways of thinking and acting, it is considered a middle ground between the first two theories. This idea is considered more rational as it believes that not every person shares the same beliefs before entering the majority.

The value-added theory is the view that collective behavior is a result of several pre-existing conditions. This could include concepts like structural strain, which refers to societal problems that would impact someone’s way of thinking.

Included factors are generalized beliefs, precipitating factors and lack of social control — which must all be present in order for the theory to apply. An example of this idea would be the March for our Lives protests, which pushed for more stringent gun laws after a school shooting occurring at Stoneman Douglas High school which claimed the lives of 17 students. 

All of these have described how humans have adopted behaviors based on their circle of influence. This mentality destroys people’s inhibitions and makes them do things they would otherwise never do alone.

There is a major loss of self-awareness once you enter a crowd. You lose your identity when taking part in mob mentality causes anonymity, which can be attractive to people who want to take part in actions without repercussions. 

Emotions as an individual are drastically different than as a group because the feelings are heightened in a collective. This gives a feeling of acceptance within the group when people are carrying out actions that would otherwise be looked down upon in a normal social setting.

It makes someone feel safe to be part of the group because the actions are being performed by all, meaning the consequences will be faced by all rather than solely the individual. It is a poisonous way of thinking but it remains human nature. 

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Melanie Hernandez

Melanie Hernandez

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