Crowds Acting As One

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Ever been to an intense sporting event where everyone is on the edge of their seats the entire time? Then all of a sudden an athlete makes an extraordinary play and the crowd seems to erupt as if it were one. While some attribute this to the fans love for their team, psychologists suggest different reasoning behind this. Psychologists believe that this can be explained because of social contagion. Social contagion is when we turn to others to figure out how to act in a certain situation. doingthewave_story1.jpgWhen a significant play is made in a game we look to others to learn how to interpret the play. If all the other fans are cheering and going crazy, you may be compelled to stand up from your seat and cheer. However, if everyone in the crowd is booing a team's bad play, you quite possibly could be convinced to leave the game. This theory of social contagion has also been studied to explain why people riot after sporting events. Psychologists suggest that the feeling of being in a large group of people can lead a person to do things that they wouldn't usually do by themselves. The group rioting is feeding off of itself and becomes more dangerous as time continues.


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First off, love the picture! It encapsulates social contagion amongst simple sports fans. But social contagion is extremely perplexing in less structured, more informal occasions. It's interesting to see how a person can be peer pressured into social contagion, without even knowing it, or without being explicitly peer pressured. Either way, it's easy to get caught up in social contagion in any scenario or situation. As you mentioned, it's a sweeping, powerful movement in large groups.

You have some really interesting information in your post. I believe there is something to be said about sports mob mentality, especially in cities where practically everyone loves a team. I believe that the ideas in your blog could explain things like the Vancouver riots last year after the Canuks lost in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you were to have a follow up blog I believe riots and sporting events would be an excellent topic to have.

Love the picture and this blog has some interesting information! I think that people also have higher levels of arousal during sports games with everyone cheering or booing and that that could contribute to the social contagion.

Your blog is very interesting. I completely agree with social contagion. Sometimes at sporting events, I find myself reacting the same ways as others even if I missed the exciting play. You always seem to follow the others around you. Lots of great info in this!

I completely agree that social contagion is infectious at large events. I believe that people will follow the actions of others because they don't want to stand out or be the one who doesn't participate in the festivities. Also, at sporting events, people are watching high energy competitions, which might inspire the crowd to engage in highly contagious behavior.

Is social contagion good or bad? Why do you think it exists? Is it different from conformity? Links to further reading would be useful.

I think social contagion is a real thing and like you mentioned it is really seen in sports events and chanting. Social contagion creates a much more inviting environment for people to go out of their comfort zone and do something they may not be comfortable doing alone. Do you think this is real in regards to all things in the world or only some things? Overall interesting blog!

Very interesting post, and a great relation to sports. I believe social contagion is a real thing and relating it to sports is perfect. Even if you don't see the play you react as everyone around does, either if it is cheering for an exciting play or booing against the opposing team. A lot of great info in an interesting blog.

I think that your average sports fan is passionate whether or not they are within a group or not. However, the degree of this passion is changed dramatically when surrounded by others who believe in the same team as you do. The psychology behind this is interesting. Why would people become more impulsive when around others? You state that people do things they wouldn't normally do alone in front of a lot of people when in a group. It would be interesting to see what would happen if everyone in that crowd but one person rooted for the opposing team. Would the other person join in?

I have noticed this phenomenon a lot! Particularly when I go to a baseball game for some reason. I don't necessarily pay attention all of the time, so when I miss something, I follow the crowd. This situation can be used to explain many different types of events, not just sporting ones.

I think this is a very well applied blog! I find myself being heavily influenced by others in a crowd at sporting events because most of the time I'm not paying very close attention to whats happening so I normally follow the crowd whenever they're cheering or standing on their feet and going crazy. I also think this blog doesn't just apply to sporting events but also to many other aspects of life.

As you said, I think social contagion can be a good and bad thing. Personally, I love being part of a crowd at intense sporting games. It's a little uncomfortable cheering by yourself, but as soon as a large group is doing the same, it's gets exciting. In the case of rioting, social contagion could get really bad as each individual feels they are less responsible proportional to the more people involved.

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This page contains a single entry by samue224 published on April 22, 2012 9:25 PM.

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