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The Mob

18 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 02 February 2013

Why do we behave differently in crowds? An “angry” mob and “herd mentality,” – are terms frequently used to describe events like the London Riots of 2011. But is there really something in us that changes when we are in a large crowd?

The French 19th Century psychologist Le Bon, believed that in a crowd we lose our minds, our sense of self and with it our moral compass. If he’s right, can we really be responsible for our actions when we are in a crowd? And should this be taken into consideration in criminal trials?

Or do large crowds have their own social identity, an identity which can be peaceful or violent. Some social psychologists think the difference between an angry mob and a peaceful crowd often depends on how that crowd is treated by the authorities. Are they right? Or is the morphing of a crowd into a mob a completely random phenomena?

(Image: A general view of a crowd in the Mall, credit Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)



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