This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a concert at First Avenue. Social psychology being on my mind, people-watching took on a special shade. More than just the individuals meandering through the dimly lit, downtown danceteria, I noticed them in context of their groups, and how those groups fell into the crowd at large. Once the concert began, I even enjoyed observing myself and how easily I could shift between enjoyment of collective enthusiasm and detached, autonomous surveillance.
As is unfortunately a common occurrence at these sorts of events, I often found myself having to scootch aside (lest I be knocked aside) for someone bustling past -- "Excuse me, just gotta squeeze through here," -- apparently so he could get closer to the stage. The first few times, I couldn't help but indignantly think to myself, "What, you don't think I would do the same thing if I thought it were actually appropriate? You think we all wouldn't like to be closer to the stage, or that you're the only genius who thought to sidle on up past other audience members?"
After apathy to this behavior set in (and after reminding myself not to too hastily commit a fundamental attribution error), I got to wondering which social psychology process was responsible for this behavior. Deindividuation came most quickly to mind; perhaps because it was dark and because they were part of a crowd, these people felt less personal responsibility to adhere to common etiquette. I kept thinking, and began to ponder crowd etiquette and how it differs depending on the sort of concert one is attending.
Rock concerts allow for more liberal behavior than classical piano concerts. How does a common purpose--and the sort of purpose--affect crowd etiquette? Can crowd etiquette, and varieties of it, be observed in animals other than humans? How often does crowd etiquette arise from a shared purpose?