Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

AN EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF MOB BEHAVIOR

NORMAN C. MEIER, G. H. MENNENGA,1 AND H. J. STOLTZ2

University of Iowa

While experimental attack on the more violent types of crowd behavior, as exemplified in the lynching mob, presents almost insuperable difficulties, modifications of experimental procedure may be contrived which are likely to yield findings of considerable scientific value. The obvious difficulties in any study of crowd behavior are chiefly those of recording a reliable response under the stress of fast-moving events, and of being able to anticipate in actual mob event. The use of motion pictures offers an objective and descriptive technique, but provides little information regarding the motivation of specific individuals.2 The technique is also deficient in that it cannot. offer much if any real data on the antecedent motivation of the individual--which, in the writers' belief, is fundamentally necessary for any understanding of a crowd episode.

It was believed feasible, however, to simulate a crowd situation with such fidelity to detail as to produce in the subjects a genuine emotional reaction of such depth as to permit immediate investigation of response-dispositions and motives in each subject before he should begin to suspect the true character of the event. If such an attempt could be carried out successfully, the pro-

____________________
1
Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan.
2
Community High School, Normal, Illnois.
3

Those in news shorts are too abbreviated, while those acted out tend to be artificial.

-153-

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