Deindividuation theory

Description We normally carry our sense of identity around with us and are thus well aware of how we are relating to other people. There are ways, however of losing ourselves, including: Becoming a part of a large group, such as a mob or army. Becoming engrossed in an interesting task, such as a hobby.

Deindividuation theory

See Article History Deindividuation, phenomenon in which people engage in seemingly impulsive, deviantand sometimes violent acts in situations in which they believe they cannot be personally identified e. The term deindividuation was coined by the American social psychologist Leon Festinger in the s to describe situations in which people cannot be individuated or isolated from others.

Some deindividuated situations can reduce accountabilitybecause people who are hidden within a group cannot be easily traced or blamed for their actions. Thus, the effects of deindividuation are sometimes viewed as socially undesirable e. However, research has shown that deindividuation also strengthens adherence to group norms.

Sometimes those norms conflict with the norms of society at large, but they are not always negative. Indeed, the effects of deindividuation can be rather inconsequential e. Origins of deindividuation theory Theories of crowd behaviour provided the origins of modern deindividuation theory.

In particular, the work of Gustave Le Bon in 19th-century France promulgated a politically motivated criticism of crowd behaviour. At the time, French society was volatile, and protests and riots were commonplace. Le Bon believed that being in a crowd allowed individuals to act on impulses that would normally be controlled or self-censored.

Le Bon argued that such undesirable behaviours can arise through three mechanisms. First, anonymity prevents people from being isolated or identified, which leads to a feeling of being untouchable and to a loss of a sense of personal responsibility.

Le Bon further argued that such loss of control leads to contagionin which a lack of responsibility spreads throughout the crowd and everyone begins to think and act in the same manner. Finally, people in crowds become more suggestible. Because everyone experiences those basic emotions and because people are less likely to have more complex emotions in common, the basic emotions will spread rapidly within a crowd as people express them.

Following Le Bon, Festinger and his colleagues proposed that being deindividuated in particular within a group reduces normal constraints on behaviour and encourages people to do things they normally would not do, because they are not directly accountable for their actions. They are in a sense liberated to do what they like.

Festinger found support for that idea by demonstrating that participants who engaged in a group discussion about their parents while being dressed alike in a dimly lit room were more likely to make negative comments than were participants in a control group.

In other words, the deindividuated situation allowed participants to express views that they would normally keep to themselves. According to Zimbardo, factors leading to a state of deindividuation include anonymity; shared, diffused, or abandoned responsibility; altered temporal perspective so that the individual focuses more on the here and now than on the past or present ; physiological arousal; sensory overload; novel or unstructured situations; and altered states of consciousness such as those brought about by the use of alcohol or drugs.

Origins of deindividuation theory

Zimbardo claimed that those factors and others act to minimize self-observation and evaluation, reduce concern for social evaluation, and weaken controls based on feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and commitment.

Thus, thresholds for expressing inhibited behaviours are lowered, and those behaviours are typically impulsive and often negative and antisocial. In the s Zimbardo conducted a series of experiments in which participants were deindividuated by being dressed in robes in the style of the Ku Klux Klan.

In one experiment, female participants were asked to deliver shocks to another female participant who was in fact a confederate as a response to incorrect answers in a learning task. Results revealed that the deindividuated participants gave shocks that were twice as long in duration as those given by participants who were not dressed in the deindividuating clothing.

Zimbardo and his colleagues also carried out what became a landmark experiment, the Stanford Prison Experimentin which student participants were deindividuated as prisoners or prison guards in a simulated prison setting at Stanford University. The students in the position of guards were physically brutal to the students who were deindividuated as prisoners, so much so that the experiment had to be terminated early.

According to Diener, objective self-awareness is high when attention is drawn inward toward the self and people actively monitor their own behaviour; it is low when focus is directed outward and behaviour is monitored less or not at all. Deindividuation is caused by a reduction in objective self-awareness, and factors that can reduce self-awareness e.

Under conditions of deindividuation, attention is therefore drawn away from the self, and people are less capable of monitoring their behaviour in relation to internal norms and standards. To support this idea, Diener and his colleagues observed the behaviour of more than 1, children one Halloween in the s, focusing on 27 homes where, on their visit, the trick-or-treating children were invited to take one candy from a table.

Deindividuation theory

Half of the children were asked where they lived and were asked for their names; half were not asked for this individuating information. Results revealed that deindividuated children and children in groups were more than twice as likely to take more than one candy.

Diener and his colleagues argued that the groups and anonymous children transgressed because the deindividuating conditions reduced their objective self-awareness and freed them from the normal constraints on their impulse to take more candies. Public self-awareness is said to decrease as a result of anonymity, so that people become less aware of how they appear publicly to others.


Anonymous individuals, for example, are less aware of how they present themselves, and, as a result, their behaviour will tend to be antinormative, or against accepted norms and standards.

Also, private self-awareness, or awareness of internal norms and standards, decreases because of the physiological arousal of being in a group and the high levels of group cohesiveness. People therefore become less aware of their internal standards of behaviour, which will also lead them to behave more impulsively.The theory of deindividuation is complicated, and different researchers in the field have very diverse definitions of deindividuation.

A few believed the deindividuated state is achieved when a person becomes anonymous and realizes that he or . deindividuation theory and SIDE with regard to how anonymity is measured within social contexts.

Deindividuation Theory Festinger, Pepitone, and Newcomb () used the term deindividuation to describe the effect of a crowd or group on the behavior of an .

Deindividuation theory

Deindividuation theory was developed to explain the violence and irrationality of the crowd. How does a group of seemingly normal individuals become an unruly mob? According to deindividuation theory, the anonymity and excitement of the crowd make individuals lose a sense of individual identity.

Deindividuation. Have you ever been in a group and acted in a manner that was completely out of character for you? How about when you hear on the news that some group of people did something so violent or stupid that you just couldn't believe it?

Deindividuation theory also asserts that the immersion of the individual within a crowd or group results in a loss of self identity (Diener, ; Festinger et al.; Zimbardo, ). May 15,  · + Application of theory – The theory of deindividuation can help us reduce aggression, for example using obvious CCTV cameras at events such as football matches has been shown to reduce violence levels.

– Pro-social behaviour – Deindividuation in .

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