Collective Behavior Theories

1765 Words May 14th, 2011 8 Pages
Robert Park first coined the term collective behavior in the early 1900s. In class, it was taught that his definition included social unrest, crowds, sects, publics, mass movements, crowd mind, propaganda, and fashion as forms of collective behavior. Collective behavior has shaped our everyday lives in more ways than most of us care to think about. Collective behavior is defined as any event in which a group of people engages in unusual behavior. Unusual may have a negative connotation for some, but from a sociological standpoint, as discussed in class, it simply means against the norm. Even more explanatory than that; behavior that falls outside of the normative expectations for a situation and/or participants. In a normal setting, …show more content…
Then thoughts start to swirl around about the situation at hand and why the situation exists. People begin to talk amongst themselves and wonder what they should do. This is where the emergence of new group norms begins. Members of the group begin to form a new definition of what is appropriate action. They begin to see what actions need to take place within the group and create norms to satisfy those needs. When these new norms are established, then crowd behavior begins, and the group members begin to act on those norms.

Another major theory of collective behavior is the Social Contagion theory. Major thinkers in this theory are Gustave LeBon, Robert Park, and Herbert Blumer. These thinkers believed that people became temporarily insane within a crowd and then return to normal when they leave the situation. The contagion refers to a rapidly spreading infection. People become engaged in collective behavior and the path of activity spreads over a certain area. The first modern theory of collective behavior used contagion to describe how the behavior spread from person to person like some kind of disease or infection. LeBon thought that crowds changed people. He believed “members of the crowd are reduced to the level of the least intelligent, roughest, most violent member of the group”. He also believed that in crowds, people rarely understand what they are doing or why they are doing it. According to LeBon, crowds act
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