Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview
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22
Hooded Hoodlums:
The Role of
Deindividuation
in Antisocial Behavior

“To be a member of a crowd is closely akin to alcohol intoxication.

—Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), English novelist


BACKGROUND

Consider the phenomenon of suicide baiting. A despondent soul is perched on a building ledge, 10 floors up. A passerby notices and calls attention to his precarious position. Swept up by morbid curiosity, others stop to watch as the desperate individual inches forward and redoubles his resolve to jump. The burgeoning rush hour crowd soon becomes an unruly mob of 500. Police arrive on the scene, hoping to diffuse the situation and rescue the victim above. Nevertheless, a sudden “Let the fool jump!” emanates from the horde and hangs in the growing darkness. Someone shouts a more forceful “Jump!” from another indistinct niche in the volatile mass. Debris is thrown at an arriving ambulance. Jeers and other malicious exhortations follow, and before long a taunting chorus begins: “Jump! Jump! …”

You might wonder: Why do ordinarily conscientious people sometimes behave in such a callous manner? More generally, why do people violate prevalent social norms and hurt, directly or indirectly, those around them? Why do they defy their own moral and ethical standards to engage in unscrupulous behavior? Answers to such pressing questions have implicated a staggering array of possible causes: genetic de

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Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology
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