Psychology of Crowd Behaviour

Module code: C8817
Level 6
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework, Essay

This module is about crowds and other collective phenomena, including riots, protests, social movements, mass emergency behaviour, and mundane situations of crowding. A fundamental question we address is how large numbers of people are able to act as one, particularly in novel situations. In both psychology and popular accounts, many of the answers given to this question suggested that collective behaviour occurs through a diminution of self or identity. This explained what some (particularly outside observers) understood as the mindlessness and irrationality they observed in crowd events such as riots. The module critically reviews these arguments through drawing on contemporary theory and research on crowds and collective action, according to which collective behaviours and experiences are meaningful, purposive and often positive.

Module learning outcomes

  • Critically evaluate the adequacy of models of collective behaviour using evidence from a variety of different research studies
  • Provide arguments using evidence of features of crowd events that challenge ‘irrationalist’ theories of the crowd
  • Analyse the relationship between identity and behaviour in collective phenomena