Monday, September 19, 2005

Deindividuation Theory and Violence

Deindividuation theory attempts to define abnormal behavior from the social dimension of the crowd. It is compelling while such is still emergent in its conception. How the individual comes to act in extraordinary manners in non-normative instances has yet to be reconciled. The irrationalist compulsive behavior which does consider the consequences of its act only desensitizes an already alienated human culture. In its continuation it also begs the question of how civilized homo sapiens exists.

Deindividuation Abstract

Deindividuation theory is a social psychological account of the individual in the crowd. Deindividuation is a psychological state of decreased self-evaluation, causing anti-normative and disinhibited behavior. The impact of deindividuation theory in science and society (especially 20th century politics) make it one of social science's more influential contributions. Deindividuation theory is rooted in some of the earliest social psychological theorizing, more than a century ago. It seeks to explain the apparent transformation of rational individuals into an unruly group or crowd. It posits that the group provides an environment in which the individual --submerged and anonymous -- suffers from a loss of self-awareness (Zimbardo, 1969). Deindividuation hinders reflection about the consequences of actions, rendering social norms impotent while increasing suggestibility to random outside influences. The theory has been invoked to account for a range of phenomena such as collective behavior, behavior in online groups and in CMC, and the results of the classic Stanford Prison Experience. Despite its status and impact, empirical support for deindividuation theory is minimal. Recently, this lack of support has been attributed to the faulty assumption that crowds cause a loss of self. Instead, it has been proposed that deindividuation marks a transition from individual identity to social dimensions of the self. This transition to a social identity may increase responsiveness to social norms particular to the crowd, instead of decreasing responsiveness to generic social norms, as suggested by deindividuation theory.

What is Deindividuation

According to deindividuation theory, the psychological state of deindividuation is aroused when individuals join crowds or large groups. The state is characterized by diminished awareness of self and individuality. This in turn reduces an individual's self-restraint and normative regulation of behavior. In social psychology, deindividuation is a major theory of group behavior: it provides an explanation of collective behavior of violent crowds, mindless hooligans, and the lynch mob. In addition, deindividuation has been associated with other social phenomena such as genocide, stereotyping, and disinhibition in other settings such as computer-mediated communication. Below, the theoretical evolution of deindividuation is sketched, followed by a brief impression of the empirical support for this theory. Finally, recent research is discussed, which argues for a reconceptualization of deindividuation: It appears deindividuation is not a loss of individual identity, but may be better construed as a transition to a social identity.

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11:02 AM  

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