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A Level Psychology - Unit 3 - Aggression (II) - Deindividualisation

Updated on July 17, 2012
What may spark these guys being aggressive towards you?
What may spark these guys being aggressive towards you? | Source

Welcome to Part 2 of our look into the Psychology of Aggressive behaviour. Today we take a look into deindividualisation theory as an explanation for aggressive behaviour. This article is specifically designed for fellow Hubbers with an interest in Psychology but is based around the AQA A Level Psychology course specifications.
Part 1 can be found at:
And as always,
if there's something you want to mention,
leave a message in the comment section.


AO1 - The description

  • Zimbardo suggested that people in large anonymous groups lose their sense of personal identity and their inhibitions over violence. This is how 'deindividualisation' can lead to aggressive behaviour.
  • Le Bon states factors such as anonymity, contagion and suggestibility are the factors which contribute to a groups 'collective mind'. These factors all contribute to a loss of self-control, which makes aggressive behaviour more likely.
  • Groups whose nature and purpose leads to a lowered self-evaluation or care of how others may evaluate them, are more aggressive. This can cause an increase in normally restricted behaviour.
  • The use of mind altering substances like drugs or alcohol, create a different mentality, making aggressive behaviour more likely. The mind set people have under these influences are different to how the normally are so can be more aggressive.
  • There is some evidence to show a uniformed group is more aggressive due to the impression of support and anonymity.
  • It has been suggested that being in a crowd reduces inner restrains and increasing uncivilised behaviour and diminishes a persons sense of identity. This results in a diminished fear of negative evaluation, potential guilt and reduces the concerns of repercussions.
  • Prentice claims reduced self-awareness in a group is a more important factor in leading to aggressive behaviour than anonymity in a group. Factors such as a loss of focus and moral standard are cited as crucial factors.

AO2 - The evidence

  • Rehm studied school children. In this experiment, children were randomly allocated to various handball teams. Some of these teams were given team uniforms to wear (such as orange shirts) whilst the others wore normal clothes. Observation noted that there was more aggressive behaviour in the uniformed teams than in non-uniformed teams. This stresses the role of conformity, support as well as anonymity in aggressive behaviour.
  • Mullen's analysed 60 cases of lynching from various newspaper sources. He noted a positive correlation between the group size and 'savagery' of the lynching. (AO3 points may refer to 'how' savagery was measured or issues with correlational research).
  • Zimbardo studied groups of 4 females in shock aid learning tests (where electric shocks are given to improve learning and avoid mistakes). The 4 females controlled the electric shocks and their participants were put into one of 2 conditions. In condition 1, their participants were given bulky lab coats and were sat in separate cubicles. In condition 2, each participant wore normal clothes and were introduced personally. They also had large name badges on. Zimbardo noted that in condition 1, there was twice as much shocking that in condition 2, stressing the role of anonymity.
  • Johnson carried out a study similar to Zimbardo. However, KKK-esque masks and overalls were used in condition 1, and nurse uniforms in condition 2. More shocking was observed in the KKK group than in a standard control group, and less in the nurses group. This stresses the role of social norms and inhibitions in aggressive behaviour.
  • Mann studied 21 suicides involving crowds. He noticed baiting (encouraging a person to 'jump') occurred in 10/21 suicides. He found that baiting was more common at night, with large groups and when there was a large distance between the 'jumper' and the crowd, again stressing the role of anonymity.
  • Watson studied 23 cultures and found that the use of war paint lead to more aggressive behaviours and actions.


AO3 - Evaluation & Issues

  • In some countries, there are accepted as grounds in which murder is legal, which can change the way a person perceives aggressive actions in groups. I.e. in the past, lynchings were very rarely punished. This means the explanation for deindivudalisation changing social norms cannot be generalised to all groups and cultures. Also research from different countries will not have a fixed setting so comparisons must be taken with a pinch of salt.
  • Much of this research ignores the positive role of groups. For example, music festivals may lead to large groups of people with a prosocial attitude. Evidence has show that when a prosocial model lead the group, altruistic actions become more common.
  • Furthermore, deindividualisation is not necessarily bad. The anonymity can be good, allowing people suffering to open up on forums and get help. Evidence and real life experiences shows people are more open over a computer than face-2-face.
  • Some explanations have a lack of support. Spears found disinhibition was not more common when people were 'anonymous' in groups, nor did it reduce self-awareness.
  • Research has show gender differences in behaviour. For example, Diener found measurements of disinhibition in men were lower than in women. Other evidence has found the opposite. This means that the explanation has weakness so can only be used to explain behaviour, when used in conjunction with other explanations.


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    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 

      5 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      awesome, is this a part of sigmund freud study??


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