Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Crowds and emotion

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Crowds and emotion:
What is the relationship between crowds and emotion?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Social gatherings evoke certain emotions in people

Decades of research on understanding the individual experiences have brought about the need to learn how people function in the crowd. The nature of the human experience revolves around crowds of peers and strangers in known and unfamiliar spaces. In a lifespan, an individual will find themselves in a copious amount of crowds like school assemblies, parties and bank queues. It is through these gatherings individuals receive information about their surrounding which regulates how they should think and behave (McHugh et al., 2010). People are good at accurately categorising the consistent[say what?] emotion of crowds (McHugh et al., 2010). Additionally, in the absence of facial features, an individual can assess the crowd by focusing on bodily postures[factual?]. On the other hand, individuals with social anxiety are quick in negatively evaluating crowds with predominantly pessimistic facial expressions (Schechtman et al., 2005).

Humans are social beings. However, the degree to which individuals seek social interactions differs. In severe cases like that of enochlophobia and agoraphobia, people actively avoid being in all public scenarios. Contrarily, some individuals thrive in crowded surroundings (figure 1). Being in the midst of such an environment energises them. Extroverts fall into this category.

This chapter addresses the connection between crowds and emotions. Through the psychological theories and researches, the interactions between the two variables will be explored.

Focus questions:

  • In what ways do crowds and emotions affect each other?
  • Which psychological theories explain this relationship?

Emotion control[edit | edit source]

The crowd can become a deciding variable of people's emotion. When in the company of others, people keep tabs on their individual emotions and that of their surroundings. The duality can dictate which emotion is elicited for an individual in a crowded atmosphere.

Managing one's emotions in crowds[edit | edit source]

There is a difference in how an individual feels when alone and in public. Most people control their behaviours to avoid feelings of embarrassment, fear and anger (Cahill & Eggleston, 1994). Additionally, it has been pointed out that there is an incongruence between the inner emotional state and appearance of individuals in crowds. To the public, individuals try to convey that they are feeling indifferent. However, there is an overload of emotional work happening internally (Cahill & Eggleston, 1994). In efforts of protecting their dignity and appearing civil, the individual juggles to moderate emotions such as awkwardness, comfort, worry, satisfaction and helplessness.

Individuals who are disabled often experience feelings of shame, anger, fear of abandonment and even pain when situated in crowded environments (Cahill & Eggleston, 1994). People with disability are mentally tasked with more emotions they need to keep aligned when in the public. In public spaces like schools, people living with disabilities avoid disclosing their impairments to feel comfortable (Blockmans, 2014).

Managing others' emotions in crowds[edit | edit source]

People naturally take account of the external factors as well as their internal contexts. Hothschild (1979) states that when people are in a crowd, regulation of other's emotions is just as important as regulating their own emotions. This was termed 'double duty' - the process of simultaneously keeping track of one's emotions and that of people in their surrounding. Parents of autistic children, for instance, monitor the emotional states of their children and people nearby as they do theirs in the public (Ryan, 2010). The 'inappropriate' behaviour of their children invokes emotions of embarrassment and shame for them. Additionally, perceiving the negative responses of other parents towards their disabled children furthers their feelings of insecurity. Although the parent's emotions and actions are orderly, the emotional status of those in the surrounding affected their emotions.

Idris is presenting in class. He is pacing his speech. He is looking around the room and making eye contact with the audience. Which of the following is he doing throughout the presentation?

Managing his emotions
Taking account of the crowd's emotions

Change in perception of the crowd[edit | edit source]

Cognition is an influential navigator of life. Cognition creates a frame of reference that each accesses as a guide of life experience. An individual's acquired perception about a stimulus governs how they interact with it. A stimulus that has been associated with negative feelings or thoughts will consistently be considered in an unfavourable stance. On the topic of crowds, individual with an acquired negative perspective about the public will avoid being in gatherings, at least[grammar?]. For instances where the crowd scene is built on positive cognition, the individual will gravitate towards such circumstances.[factual?]

Acquired negative perception[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Socially shy and anxious children may avoid crowds due to acquired fear

Unpredicted circumstances can lead to an adjustment in how one perceives crowds. Post-traumatic events and psychological disorders may make a person who once enjoyed being in the public to avoid crowded places[grammar?]. People dealing with social anxiety disorder forbear[say what?] from attending any social gatherings due to the fear of being assessed negatively (Lange, Keijsers, Becker & Rinck, 2008). For the individual suffering from the disorder, mental interpretation of the public and social settings undergoes an alteration (Stopa & Clark, 2000). In such instances, the crowd evolves to automatically generate emotions of stress, discomfort and fear. Hence resulting in socially anxious individuals to become increasingly avoidant of crowds that appear neutral-angry as well as generally stay away from happy-angry crowds (Lange et al., 2008)[grammar?].

Acquired positive perception[edit | edit source]

Overcoming one's shyness and social anxiety will change the emotions associated with crowds. Reforming the negative beliefs towards the public from an anxiety-inducing unsafe context to a more positive outlook will lessen the negative emotions people might feel (Antony, Swinson, 2017). Maintaining a positive interpretation of the crowd allows individuals to experience positive emotions in social situations[factual?].

Case study When Jamal was a child, he was quite reserved. Due to his acquired ambivalent attachment, he was wary of strangers (figure 2). Jamal did not like being in unfamiliar places due to uncertainty about whom he may encounter. He feared that being in social gatherings increased chances of his family advocating for him to try to mingle with strangers, which was a scary thought. Therefore, the idea of leaving home ignited feelings of anxiousness, worry and panic.

As a young adult, Jamal enjoys being out. The fearful thoughts that once circulated his mind when in public no longer exists. He thinks that being social is good for him, and perceives it as a necessity of life. He is thrilled to accompany his girlfriend to the farmers market every Sunday and loves attending concerts of his favourite artists. He occasionally greets passengers on his way to university. The crowd that once terrified him is now a thrilling addition to his daily life.

Crowdedness[edit | edit source]

The concept of crowdedness is subjective. What one might consider to be an overly populated scene might be deemed as an appropriate amount by another. An experiment by Novelli et al. (2013) investigated this factor. It was observed that the more people felt crowded, the less positive emotions they experienced. It was also noted that people who reported feeling less crowded, identified with the public more than those who reported otherwise. Therefore, identification with the crowd is a determining factor of one's experience in public. An individual who feels out of place as a plus one in a party will perceive the party to be too crowded and thus trigger emotions of discomfort and overwhelm.

Chinedu is at her brother's private show. The event holds 10 people but she only knows her brother. She feels uncomfortable throughout the show. Which of the following explains her emotions?

She is introverted in nature
She does not identify with the crowd
The event is not big enough for her taste

Psychological theories[edit | edit source]

This section explores two theories that explain the nature of emotions when in crowds. Both theories emphasise the role of identification with crowd.

Deindividuation theory[edit | edit source]

The theory of deindividuation explains the phenomenon where individuals act as one body in a group (Vilanova et al., 2017). People behave differently when in crowds because they assume the identity of the group, as supposed to act per their individual selves. The theory primarily explained the impulsive and undesirable behaviours of people in crowds. It accounts for why people behave unethically and out of character when in groups. The anonymity, contagion and suggestibility are the elements that result in acts like riots and group vandalisms. Deindividuation may cause individuals to feel positive kinds of emotions (Hopper, 2020). In his explanation, deindividualised behaviours are emotional (Vilanova et al., 2017). People are uniformly swayed to be focused on the same things in a group. Therefore, if the crowd is positively reacting to a stimulus, individuals would feel the same way. The crowd would ignite a specific emotion in the individual about a certain stimulus. For example, if a crowd has positive perceptions about public display of affection, individuals of the group would feel cheerful and optimistic, and express their likings.

Emotional contagion theory[edit | edit source]

Emotional contagion is derived from the social contagion theory. The derived theory claims that the emotional states of individuals can be influenced and altered when in groups (Marsden, 2020). The crowd in which an individual surrounds themselves in [awkward expression?] can cause assimilation of emotions. Barsade[grammar?] (2002) research supported the theory as the results of the experiment showed there was a transfer of emotion between participants of the study. The group as an entity shapes the identity of its members. It is an instinctive process. This is done by linking the group members' emotional states to create uniformity. The merge of emotions is achieved through emotional feedbacks and mimicry of the face, voice and posture (Scheve & Salmella, 2014).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

This chapter explored the relationship between crowds and emotions. The content identified three variables that influence one's emotional experience in a crowded environment:

  1. Emotions that constitute the crowd:
    1. Individual emotions in the crowds: Research gives evidence that when people are in a gathering, they are mentally focusing on stabilising their personal feelings. The strenuous mental work is to maintain a desired image to the crowd.
    2. External emotions of the crowd: Simultaneously, individuals are taking note of the responses of people around them. These expressed emotions of people in the surrounding influences the feelings of individuals.
  2. Acquired perception of crowds:
    1. Positive perception: Positive perceptions about crowds brings about optimistic emotions in the individual when in public. Imagining oneself being in a crowded space with optimism will allow the individual to enjoy being in the crowd.
    2. Negative perception: Adverse outlook of crowds, due to experiences or unfamiliarity, will evoke negative feelings for the individual. As a consequence, the pubic[spelling?] may be avoided or feared by individuals who regard the public as an unsafe or fearful place.
  3. Crowdedness:
    1. Overwhelming: Perceiving a crowd to be too much leads to negative feelings. When a space is perceived to be too crowded by an individual, the person may feel emotions of discomfort and overwhelm.
    2. Comfort: Identifying oneself in a crowd reduces the overwhelming feeling of congestion one might feel in a gathering. As a consequence of feeling less crowded, individuals can experience the company with good responses.

A practical takeaway of this topic is the awareness of the environment's effect on one's emotions. The dominant thought is that human beings influence the environment more[than?]. People mostly walk into the public with decided predictions of how the social interaction will proceed. However, the findings of this chapter state that the environment affects the moods of people in many ways. Readers of this topic should hereafter be aware of the feelings of people around them, the standpoints held by their social groups as well as the situations they identify themselves in.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Antony, M.M. & Swinson, R.P. (2017). The shyness and social anxiety workbook: Proven, step-by-step techniques for overcoming your fear (3rd ed.). New Harbinger Publications.

Barsade, S.G. (2002). The ripple effect: Emotional contagion and its influence on group behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47(4), 644–675.

Blockmans, I.G.E. (2014). Not wishing to be the white rhino in the crowd: Disability-disclosure at university. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 34(2), 158-180.

Cahill, S.E. & Eggleston, R. (1994). Managing emotions in public: The case of wheelchair users. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57(4), DOI: 300-312. 10.2307/2787157

Gilboa-Schechtman, E., Presburger, G., Marom, S. & Hermesh, H. (2005). The effects of social anxiety and depression on the evaluation of facial crowds. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43(4), 467-474.

Hopper, E. (2020). What Is deindividuation in psychology? Definition and Examples. ThoughtCo.

Lange, W., Keijsers, G., Becker, E.S. & Rinck, M. (2008). Social anxiety and evaluation of social crowds: Explicit and implicit measures. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46(8), 932-943.

Marsden, P. (2020). Memetics & social contagion: Two sides of the same coin? Viralculture.

McHugh, J. E., McDonnell, R., O'Sullivan, C. & Newell, F.N. (2010). Perceiving emotion in crowds: The role of dynamic body postures on the perception of emotion in crowded scenes. Experimental Brain Research, 204, 361-371.

Novelli, D., Drury, J., Reicher, S. & Stott, C. (2013). Crowdedness mediates the effect of social identification on positive emotion in a crowd: A survey of two crowd events. PLOS ONE, 8(11).

Ryan, S. (2010). ‘Meltdowns’, surveillance and managing emotions; going out with children with autism. Health and Place, 16(5), 868-875.

Scheve, C. V. & Salmella, M. (2014). Collective emotions: Perspectives from psychology, philosophy, and sociology. Oxford University Press.

Stopa, L. & Clark, D.M. (2000). Social phobia and interpretation of social events. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38(3) March, 273-283.

Vilanova, F., Bera, F.M., Costa, A.B. & Koller, S.H. (2017). Deindividuation: From Le Bon to the social identity model of deindividuation effects. Cogent Psychology, 4(1), DOI: 10.1080/23311908.2017.1308104

External links[edit | edit source]