Collective Behavior Assignment
Collective behavior is a term sociologists use to refer to a miscellaneous set of behaviors in which large numbers of people engage. More specifically, collective
behavior is a relatively spontaneous and relatively unstructured behavior by large numbers of individuals acting with or being influenced by other individuals. As we
shall see, some forms of collective behavior are more spontaneous and unstructured than others, and some forms are more likely than others to involve individuals who
act together as opposed to merely being influenced by each other.
Common forms of collective behavior include crowds, mobs, panics, riots, disaster behavior, rumors, mass hysteria, moral panics, and fads and crazes. Of these forms,
some (crowds, panics, riots, and disasters) involve people who are generally in each other’s presence and who are more or less interacting with each other, while other
forms (rumors, mass hysteria, moral panics, and fads and crazes) involve people who are not in each other’s presence—in fact, they may be separated by hundreds or
thousands of miles—but nonetheless share certain beliefs or concerns.
A crowd is large number of people who gather together with a common short-term or long-term purpose. The four types we will discuss are casual crowds, conventional
crowds, expressive crowds, and acting crowds. A fifth type, protest crowds, has also been distinguished by other scholars.
A casual crowd is a collection of people who happen to be in the same place at the same time. It has no common identity or long-term purpose. Like a group of people
waiting to cross the street. This gathering of people are all waiting to cross the street and to this degree do have a common goal, but this goal is temporary and this
particular collection of people quickly disappears once this goal is achieved.
An expressive crowd is a collection of people who gather primarily to be excited and to express one or more emotions. Examples include a religious revival, or a
political rally for a candidate, or events like Mardi Gras.
As its name implies, an acting crowd goes one step beyond an expressive crowd by behaving in violent or other destructive behavior such as looting. A mob is an
intensely emotional crowd that commits or is ready to commit violence.—an intensely emotional crowd that commits or is ready to commit violence—is a primary example of
an acting crowd.
Rumors, Mass Hysteria, and Moral Panics
The types of collective behavior discussed so far—crowds, riots, and disaster behavior—all involve people who are often physically interacting with one another.
Rumors, mass hysteria, and moral panics all involve strongly held beliefs and perceptions that turn out to be not true at all or at least gross distortions of reality.
A rumor is a story based on unreliable sources that is nonetheless passed on from one person to another person. A rumor may turn out to be true, but it often turns out
to be an exaggeration or distortion of the facts. The defining feature of a rumor, though, is that when it arises it is not based on reliable evidence and thus is
Mass hysteria is widespread, intense fear of and concern for a danger that turns out to be false or greatly exaggerated. One that is often-cited is the “War of the
A moral panic is widespread concern over a perceived threat to the moral order that turns out to be false or greatly exaggerated and is closely related to mass
Fads and crazes make up the second category of beliefs and perceptions that are considered to be collective behavior. A fad is a rather insignificant activity or
product that is popular for a relatively short time. A craze is a temporary activity that attracts the obsessive enthusiasm of a relatively small group of people.
American history has witnessed many kinds of fads and crazes throughout the years, including goldfish swallowing, stuffing people into a telephone booths, and the
notorious campus behavior known as streaking.
In relation to people’s behavior regarding the solar eclipse, how might you look at this event sociologically considering its a form of collective behavior. What kind
of "crowd" would you consider viewers of the eclipse? What rumors if any, have you heard realting to the eclipse? How might this event be considered a
"craze"? Give me a couple of paragraphs to answer the questions above. You may submit these paragraphs here on Canvas on Turnitin.