Social Influence Perspective on Crowd Behavior

August 1986 (VOL. 4, NO. 2)

Download this article

Research guided by a social influence perspective on crowd behavior is considered under three categories: leader to crowd; crowd to members; crowd to outsiders. It is argued that a single model of crowd influence which relies on a single process is inadequate. It is found that several social influence processes affect the attitudes and actions of crowd members - social facilitation, modeling and imitation, conformity to group norms, group discussion and persuasive appeals. The operation of these social influence processes is examined for a variety of crowd forms including crusade rallies (Newton & Mann, 1980), crazy auctions (Mann, 1975), spectators to a dispute (Mann, Paleg & Hawkins, 1978), baiting crowds (Mann, 1981) and queues (Mann, 1970, 1977). The size of the crowd is shown to be an important factor mediating the probability that people will be drawn to the crowd, induced to join, and become influenced by the leader\\'s persuasive message. It is suggested that cultural differences in such factors as conformity pressures are linked to the incidence of crowd activity and the likelihood of social influence occurring in crowds in various countries. Future research should investigate the comparative vulnerability to influence of strangers and groups of friends in crowds, individual differences in susceptibility to crowd influences and discontinuities in individual behavior associated with changes in crowd size and proportion of crowd members already responding.