Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Crowds and emotion

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

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Crowd displaying positive emotions through use of hand movements to show enthusiasm.

Emotions can be described as feelings that are expressed when in a certain situation or surrounded by certain people. There can be multiple reasons for emotions however, mainly the purpose of emotions is communication. It can let people know how an individual is feeling by observing their facial expressions and demeanour. When positive emotions are rapidly spread among a crowd, individuals can experience a sense of solidarity and unity which can positively impact one's social identity. This can be shown by engaging with the crowd by displaying enthusiasm. An example is at a concert where individuals are waving their hands in the air, as shown in Figure 1. The relationship between crowds and emotion may seem relatively simple however, it is crucial to understand the many factors contributing to the relationship.

Focus questions:

  • What is the relationship between crowds and emotion?
  • What psychological theories can explain the relationship between crowds and emotion?
  • What is the significance of the relationship between crowds and emotion?


An audience member of a football game recounting their experience of unity:

Member 1: "Ahhh, I did experience national pride when our people were singing the national anthem you could see that people were singing from their hearts, from the bottom of their hearts so it has just brought us together, black and white like you’ve never seen before"

Interviewer: "Really, that’s what it feels like to you?"

Member 1: "Yes in terms of unity that you’ve never seen before" (Sullivan, 2018, p.11)

Types of emotions[edit | edit source]

There are various different types of emotions such as individual emotions, group-based emotions or collective emotions and they all contribute differently to the relationship between crowds and emotion (Sullivan, 2018). Individual emotions refer to the emotions individuals experience from situations prompted by their own personal identity. Whereas group-based emotions refer to emotions individuals experience from situations prompted by their social identity within a group (Kessler & Hollbach, 2005)[grammar?]. These two types of emotions are crucial for collective emotions because collective emotions coordinate off group-based emotions (Sullivan, 2018). There can also be sudden intermediate transitions between personal and social identity within an individual in a particular situation. For example, a person attends a concert where the entire crowd is full of joy and excitement and the individual quickly finds themselves engaging in the crowd and vaguely forming a social identity. This can be attributed to the contingencies of the concert, the individual is depicting behaviours of affection, celebration and a unique bond with strangers (Sullivan, 2018)[grammar?].

Theory of collective emotions[edit | edit source]

Collective emotions refer to the response to circumstances that are relevant to existing groups and prompt group-based emotions. Collective emotions are crucial for Individuals that share a social identity and are responding to the same situation. This is due to the fact that these emotions work as a motivator for groups to achieve particular goals. However, referring back to sudden intermediate transitions between personal and social identity, this is also relevant to collective emotions. Individuals who for example, attend a concert or are in the case of an emergency (any situation where individuals do not share any preexisting social identity), identification can often occur as a by-product of collective emotions (Goldenberg et al., 2020). In one particular study concerning crowds at a football game, their customs or rituals were more important in creating collective emotions with the audience and other players, rather than the actual end result of the game (Sullivan, 2018). Furthermore, the study proves that the rapid "emotional energy" due to the customs of the game encourages new arrival audience members to very quickly engage themselves and be quite passionate supporters of the game. This onset of positive collective emotions among the entire crowd of the football game has the ability to create the feeling of being part of the community in a close-knit manner or extending to a much larger feeling of solidarity such as national pride (Sullivan, 2018). Overall, it is very prevalent that the crowds at the football game created a strong awareness of solidarity and unity through the use of collective emotions.

Unity[edit | edit source]

Elaborating further on the relationship between collective emotions and solidarity, an important outcome of this relationship is unity. Specifically, during the football game it was clear that the entire crowd was experiencing unity, this is shown through the conversations that had occurred throughout the game. One audience member stated that "the shared goal or desire of the crowds during the opening game which overcame racial divisions" further stating that, "the first game was fantastic, most of the people were chanting like brothers, since I was born I've never seen people doing chanting like that" (Sullivan, 2018). This statement is extremely important as it shows the clear and powerful relationship between crowds and emotion. It also shows how positive the outcomes of this relationship can be, as unity can be used to embrace minority groups and groups that are usually negatively stereotyped against (Sullivan, 2018). By sharing a common goal with a large number of people, it creates an overwhelming sense of motivation and power to achieve the goal. This can be clearly seen through protesters, riots or sporting events suggesting that certain crowds sharing a common goal can have harmful intentions. Concluding that although the relationship between crowds and emotion can create a positive and powerful sense of unity, it can also have negative outcomes[grammar?].

Emotional contagion in crowds[edit | edit source]

Emotional contagion refers to expressing a certain emotion and hoping that the emotion will be recognised and reciprocated. During customer service interactions it is very common for employees to use the concept of emotional contagion. This is used to increase customer satisfaction and increase the chances the customer will return or provide positive feedback. By the employee displaying positive emotions they hope that the customer will recognise this and reciprocate those positive emotions (Liu et al., 2019). Social psychology studies prove that individuals innately observe others[grammar?] emotions to use as social information as a basis for their own responses and reactions (Whittington & Holland, 2011). This is why when dangerous incidents occur in crowded public places it is crucial to remain as calm as possible to avoid negative emotional contagion. Negative emotional contagion causes individuals to act irrationally and can cloud their judgement very easily. When panic is spreading rapidly among large crowds, it can lead to stampedes and overall the situation can become extremely dangerous (Shi et al., 2021). The use of emotional contagion in a crowded environment is therefore, one of the most important techniques.

Emotional facial expressions[edit | edit source]

The use of facial expressions can display an individuals[grammar?] goals and intentions and is commonly used when interacting with others,[grammar?] this is especially useful in a crowded environment (Goldenberg et al., 2021). Social psychology studies state that more emotional facial expressions are more noticeable and desirable among crowds than dull expressions. This therefore, explains why sometimes a crowds[grammar?] emotion can be misjudged as, only the highly emotional facial expressions are included (Goldenberg et al., 2021).

Ensemble coding[edit | edit source]

Similarly, ensemble coding allows individuals to automatically and quickly condense visual information. It can be helpful to utilise ensemble coding to extract data from a sample set which can conclude data about a large scale sample (Goldenberg et al., 2021). Again this is done by extracting the most highly emotional individuals and using them as the sample set to make conclusions about the entire crowd. This can be considered attentional bias and can draw incorrect conclusions that a particular crowd is more emotional than it actually is.

Social anxiety disorder[edit | edit source]

Some social psychology research shows that socially anxious individuals tend to recognise and attend to negative facial expressions more than positive expressions (Lange et al., 2008). A study measuring the avoidance level of socially anxious participants compared to neutral-angry crowds and happy-angry crowds concluded that participants increasingly avoided the neutral-angry crowds and generally avoided the happy-angry crowds (Lange et al., 2008). Comparatively, to non-socially anxious participants, who did not show a difference in avoidance levels between both crowds[grammar?]. Another study measuring eye movements and evaluating crowds between socially anxious participants and non-socially anxious participants stated that socially anxious participants fixated more on the angry expressions than the non-socially anxious participants (Lange et al., 2011). Overall, when extracting data about a crowds[grammar?] overall emotion, there are several factors such as, facial expressions, ensemble coding and social anxiety to take into account.

The crowd-emotion-amplification effect[edit | edit source]

The crowd-emotion-amplification effect explains why more emotional facial expressions are more noticeable and desirable among crowds than dull expressions. Stating that not all expressions are equally as captivating (Goldenberg et al., 2021)[grammar?]. The conclusions drawn from the crowd-emotion-amplification effect implies that it is crucial not to misjudge overall crowd emotions as it can be vital information for controlling crowds and minimising danger (Goldenberg et al., 2021).

How does the crowd-emotion-amplification effect explain the relationship between crowds and emotion?[edit | edit source]

The crowd-emotion-amplification effect results state that there is an attentional bias to negative emotions rather than positive. This can lead to inaccurate results about the crowds[grammar?] average emotion (Goldenberg et al., 2021). Therefore, explains the relationship between crowds and emotion as complicated due to the many underlying factors that can arise from emotion[grammar?].

Figure 2. People from Katowice expressing solidarity.

Significance of the relationship between crowds and emotion[edit | edit source]

The main significance of this relationship is how much of a positive impact it has on social interactions and social identity. The relationship between crowds and emotion has the ability for individuals to express and boost their own social and national identity (Sullivan, 2018). Being a part of something bigger and meaningful gives individuals a great sense of purpose. Figure 2 displays people from Katowice coming together to march against violence and show solidarity with Bialystok. Being part of a crowd that shares a common goal also promotes group solidarity which can also boost an individuals self-esteem.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Although the relationship between crowds and emotion can be complex at times, there are many positive attributes that can come from this relationship. Firstly, the various types of emotions such as group-based emotions or collective emotions have an important role in the relationship between crowds and emotion. There can be sudden transitions between emotions and identities depending on the particular crowd environment and this can encourage individuals to create a unique bond with the people in the crowd. It is clear that the relationship between crowds and emotion can create the feeling of solidarity, unity and can create or boost national identity. The psychological theory of emotional contagion is extremely important for crowd management and has the ability to lessen the chance of stampedes and other extremely dangerous situations. Emotional facial expressions tie in with the crowd-emotion-amplification effect which suggests the idea that highly emotional faces are more noticeable than less emotional faces and this is significant for judging crowd emotions. Furthermore, theories such as ensemble coding can also be used for judging crowd emotions, which can sometimes lead to incorrect to conclusions about the crowd. Studies concerning individuals with social anxiety disorder judging crowd emotions show that there is some differentiation compared to non-anxious individuals. Overall, there is a high degree of significance with the relationship between crowds and emotion. It is extremely important to take note of the amount of impact crowd emotion can have on individuals, with the ability to create lasting bonds and boosting social identity.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Birtel, M. D., & Crisp, R. J. (2012). “Treating” Prejudice: An Exposure-Therapy Approach to Reducing Negative Reactions Toward Stigmatized Groups. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1379–1386.

Dezecache, G. (2015). Human collective reactions to threat. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science, 6(3), 209–219.

Goldenberg, A., Garcia, D., Halperin, E., & Gross, J. J. (2020). Collective Emotions. Current Directions in Psychological Science : a Journal of the American Psychological Society, 29(2), 154–160.

Goldenberg, A., Weisz, E., Sweeny, T. D., Cikara, M., & Gross, J. J. (2021). The Crowd-Emotion-Amplification Effect. Psychological Science, 32(3), 437–450.

Haberman, J., Lee, P., & Whitney, D. (2015). Mixed emotions: Sensitivity to facial variance in a crowd of faces. Journal of Vision (Charlottesville, Va.), 15(4), 16–16.

Kessler, T., & Hollbach, S. (2005). Group-based emotions as determinants of ingroup identification. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41(6), 677–685.

Lange, W.-G., Heuer, K., Langner, O., Keijsers, G. P. ., Becker, E. S., & Rinck, M. (2011). Face value: Eye movements and the evaluation of facial crowds in social anxiety. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42(3), 355–363.

Lange, W.-G., 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.

Li, J., Cai, R., de Ridder, H., Vermeeren, A., & van Egmond, R. (2014). A study on relation between crowd emotional feelings and action tendencies. Proceedings of the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, 775–784.

Liu, X.-Y., Chi, N.-W., & Gremler, D. D. (2019). Emotion Cycles in Services: Emotional Contagion and Emotional Labor Effects. Journal of Service Research : JSR, 22(3), 285–300.

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(3), 361–372.

Palanisamy, G., & Manikandan, T. T. (2017). Group Behaviour Profiling for Detection of Anomaly in Crowd. International Conference on Technical Advancements in Computers and Communications (ICTACC), 11–15.

Shi, Y., Zhang, G., Lu, D., Lv, L., & Liu, H. (2021). Intervention optimization for crowd emotional contagion. Information Sciences, 576, 769–789.

Sullivan, G. B. (2018). Collective Emotions: A Case Study of South African Pride, Euphoria and Unity in the Context of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1252–1252.

Whittington, J., & Holland, T. (2011). Recognition of emotion in facial expression by people with Prader-Willi syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55(1), 75–84.

Yang, J.-W., Yoon, K. L., Chong, S. C., & Oh, K. J. (2013). Accurate but Pathological: Social Anxiety and Ensemble Coding of Emotion. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37(3), 572–578.

External links[edit | edit source]