Stott, C, Hutchinson, P., & Drury, J. (2001). ‘Hooligans’ abroad? Inter-group dynamics, social identity and participation in collective ‘disorder’ at the 1998 World Cup Finals British Journal of Social Psychology 40, 359–384.
Donley, M. (2011) Examining the Mob Mentality. South Source (1).
I went to twitter to ask for suggestions on teaching this. It seemed that this is not a common topic taught among my followers and my followers' followers, so I was on my own. This is why I decided to write about the activities I used (which was both engaging and interesting for my students). In fact, this was one of the best group discussions I have ever had in class. So much so that I went over time in my class and the students didn't even try to run out before we were finished!
So what did I do?
1. We went to a well traveled area of campus (relatively so for 9:00 AM), the campus center and food court. We found a well traveled area and my students (about 35 of them) lined up. We tried different things, such as all of them looking up and all of them looking down. Initially, the few people in the food court avoided the area, conspicuously changing direction to get to where they were going without walking past the line. My students were also initially uncomfortable. Soon, however, they became relaxed, and began to talk to those that would walk by. By the end the five minutes, my students would try to engage those who walked by in conversation, laying sometimes, sometimes trying to get them to join the line. At one point, there was a person who asked if they were waiting in line for food (they were no where near the food areas). My students began to laugh and this was when the students attitudes changed from uncomfortable to getting into the "mob" spirit. We left after 5 minutes and then discussed what we had observed.
2. Modified survivor game. I broke the class up into two large groups. I then asked a trivia question. Then I had the group vote out two people from the group. This first two to leave for the most part volunteered. We then went to the next round. However, before two more people were voted out of each group, I told the class that those voted out would need to dance in front of the class. At this point, the 4 who had initially opted out of the groups protested and declared that they would NOT dance in front of the class. This round also ended up being more high stakes in terms of who would go. One group asked for volunteers who could dance. I continued with rounds until there was one group of 5 and one group of 3 along with the group of 27 who had already been voted out. I then told all three groups they would have to dance in front of the class, one group at a time. Not surprisingly, the large group of 27 were the least inhibited in dancing (yes, even the one person first voted out who had protested the loudest ended up dancing without a single word). We then discussed peer pressure, social identity theory, and mob mentality.
3. Finally we discussed the TV show, What would you do? This hidden camera show presents ethical dilemma scenarios and sees how people react. Often, the non-verbal communication cues indicate someone does not like what is going on, but action is not taken until someone speaks up. When this happens, often others will chime in. This is a perfect example of both the "mob mentality" and the "silent majority" that don't want to be excluded from a group because they have questioned a group's norms. This is often the cause of bullying, especially in middle and high school. It is not as much an individual conflict as a group dynamic which creates an environment in which group members either feel empowered to act in anti-social behavior because they are part of a group (mob mentality) or others do not want to stop anti-social behavior for fear that they will be excluded from the group.