Mob Mentality | Teen Ink

Mob Mentality

December 14, 2013
By Jordan Iacabucci BRONZE, Merritt Island, Florida
Jordan Iacabucci BRONZE, Merritt Island, Florida
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Mob mentality is a part of human nature and is an instinct for all people. A radio broadcast on mob mentality states that people will always have a desire to join mobs (“Mob Mentality”). When many people are doing it, more people join in, but why? In “Examining the Mob Mentality,” Tamara Avant, the Psychology program director at South University said, “There are some group characteristics that increase the likelihood of violence, such as group size and physical anonymity.” Mob mentality can have an effect on groups as seemingly trivial as high school cliques or as influential as riots protesting the government. When individuals are given the choice of fighting against a group or joining blindly, they usually surrender to the group because when faced with mob mentality, individuals fear being alone, and joining the group is easier than going against it.

Individuals in society usually try to avoid standing out in a crowd in fear of being set apart from the group or isolated. Researchers say that most people let others get accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trails “is because they are afraid that they get accused of being a witch as well” (“Online Schools Guide to the Salem Witch Trials – Library”). People feared being isolated or cast out because of their accusations, so they let it be. They didn’t want to have to face being put in jail, so they just went along with witch hunting, and some even got in on the hunting. “McCarthy single-handedly succeeded in arousing the American population to an unprecedented state of panic and alarm” (Miller). McCarthy wanted to rid the United States of all communists, and he was willing to do anything to make this a reality. People feared McCarthy because he had total power over who was accused of being a communist or not. If anyone spoke out against him, they were accused of being associated with communism as well. It is hard to go against the crowd when a person knows he or she will be punished for it.

For many people it is easier to join or go with ideas of a certain group than to fight against the group. Adolf Hitler made certain he would have no opposition by having “the Nazi Party targeted German youth as a special audience for its propaganda messages” (Indoctrinating Youth). Hitler was very clever in the way he prevented defiance from his people. He directed most of the propaganda to the children, and in this way he could conform them to view the Nazi beliefs. To study the reason for obedience among the Nazis, Stanley Milgram “concluded people obey either out of fear or out of a desire to appear cooperative--even when acting against their own better judgment and desires” and did an experiment to prove this (Billikopf). Milgram tested this theory by performing an experiment called the electroshock experiment. It showed that people were willing to hurt another person, which they know is morally wrong, if they are not responsible for their actions and if someone is telling them to do it. This conveys that people turn towards a feeling of anonymity over a sense of accountability. This shows that the subject finds it easier to follow than take a stand. The individual usually feels his or her cause is much smaller than a group’s cause, which the individual feels is wrong.

When people conform into a group or mob, they can forget their individuality and sense of uniqueness. In an article, it was said “more than 1,000 protesting Penn State University students poured into the streets around campus after head football coach Joe Paterno was fired in fallout from a child-abuse scandal at the school” (Simpson). After Jerry Sandusky was arrested for a sex-abuse scandal, Joe Paterno was said to have known something about the abuse and didn’t say anything, so he was fired. The students at Penn State rioted against Paterno being fired, and it became a huge mob. As more and more students joined the mob, they became one whole instead of individuals. In Dr. Zimbardo's prison study, he was in a state of consternation “because the students assigned to play guards were not instructed to be abusive, and instead conformed to their own notions of how to keep order in a prison” (Stanley). This experiment was when Dr. Phillip Zimbardo took a group of men and had them pretend to be guards and prisoners. The guards were so into this study that they became sadistic on their own and lost their true identity in this mock prison. The bigger a group gets the more individuality and responsibility is lost in each separate person.

In some cases, people speak out against a mob, but it is very rare and usually doesn’t work out well. During a speech made by a Syracuse University student Irving Feiner “intended to encourage listeners to attend a leftist rally, Feiner made several disparaging remarks about local politicians, organizations, and President Truman”(“Feiner v. New York | The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law”). In this case, a man was stating his beliefs to a crowd and caused some people to become agitated about what he was saying. Some people even began to threaten Feiner during the speech, which police thought may have caused violence. So they asked him to stop his speech, and when he refused they had him arrested. After Feiner was arrested the Supreme Court ruled “Feiner's arrest was a valid exercise of ‘the interest of the community in maintaining peace and order on its streets’” (“Feiner v. New York | The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law”). This shows that even if you try to go against the mob, it is hard to go against what the majority believes and is set on achieving. That is why most people join a crowd because normally there is opposition to their own beliefs, and it frightens them on what might happen if people form a mob against them.

When individuals are faced with mob mentality, they fear being alone. When individuals are given the choice of fighting the river or going with the flow, it is easier to join the flow. People can easily get caught up in a mob. Mob mentality can affect anyone and can cause violence, but it is up to the person how he or she will face it.

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