If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:6:27

Aspects of Collective Behavior: Fads, Mass Hysteria, and Riots

Video transcript

in our last few videos we discuss norms and deviance and outline some potential ways in which changes in norms and deviance can occur on an individual level but what happens when large numbers of individuals rapidly and randomly behave in ways that do not reflect societal norms in sociology this phenomenon is called collective behavior now collective behavior is not the same thing as group behavior and that's because of a few reasons first collective behavior typically is time limited and involves short social interactions whereas groups tend to remain together longer and socialize for extended periods of time secondly while collective behavior is time limited it isn't socially limited there are no social boundaries and anyone is free to participate in a collective whereas groups can be exclusive or have like membership requirements lastly norms within groups are generally strongly held and well-defined whereas collective behavior produces norms that are weak and murky collective behavior generally violates widely held societal norms and at times it can be very destructive though it's not the same thing as group behavior is often driven by group dynamics things like deindividuation which is a concept I discuss in the social psychology videos you don't need to know the specifics but just know that certain group dynamics can oftentimes encourage people to engage in acts that they may consider deviant or wrong under normal circumstances in these group same group dynamics it can happen in a collective as well now sociologists have identified three basic types of collective behavior fads mass hysteria and riots you've probably heard all these terms before and you probably have a general idea what they are but I'm going to discuss them from the perspective of a sociologist get the official true understanding of what this means so let's examine each of these in a little more detail a fad or a fleeting behavior is something that becomes incredibly popular very quickly and then loses popular almost just as quickly fat's typically last for a very short period of time but they reach an influencer large numbers of people in that time fads are not necessarily in line with normal behavior but because they're perceived as cool or interesting by a large group of people they gain popularity a good example of fad is a cinnamon challenge and you may have seen this on YouTube in order to conquer the cinnamon challenge a person has to eat a large spoonful of ground cinnamon in under a minute a part of this fad involved taping the attempt and posting a video online now while this may sound like a breeze I don't suggest trying this at home most people who do the cinnamon challenge end up gagging coughing or vomiting now it seems pretty silly right well despite the fact that the challenge is pretty silly and definitely not normal behavior I mean people don't usually eat a spoonful of cinnamon in less than a minute if you look up the challenge on YouTube you'll see there are over like six hundred thousand attempts but after the novelty of the challenge were off and people realize how unpleasant it was they stopped doing it and it became less popular and thus the fad ended so that's what a fad is now the second example of collective behaviors mass hysteria mass hysteria involves large groups of people who experience unmanageable delusions and anxiety at the same time the reactions spread rapidly and reach more people through rumors and fear mass hysteria often takes the form of panicked reactions and negative news or a potential threat a good example of of mild mass hysteria is the reaction that often takes place when there's a chance of severe weather coming now all major news outlets cover the forecast incessantly and they induce fear and anxiety and large groups of people the fear causes people to become crazed they rush to the supermarket they drive erratically they become irrational so that's that's like a mild form of mass hysteria that's calls from weather reports however mass hysteria can also be the result of psychology like when the large groups of vinda Vigil suddenly believe they have the same illness and experienced similar physical symptoms despite a lack of disease this is sometimes called mass psychogenic illness or epidemic hysteria a recent example of this came after the anthrax attacks in the United States immediately after there were reports of an anthrax attack there were over 2,000 false anthrax alarms many individuals reported physical symptoms of anthrax infection and they're afraid of exposure although it was found that there there was no risk of infection for those those people because they weren't exposed anthrax they just thought they were regardless is still induced symptoms in these patients that were real symptoms so that's mass hysteria now the final example of collective behavior that we'll talk about today is a riot now riots are characterized by large groups of people who suddenly engage in deviant behavior like vandalism violence or other crimes riots are typically very chaotic and cost cities thousands or millions of dollars in damages individuals who act out during riots they typically cast aside societal norms in the behave in very destructive ways they've ruined property they steal and they violate laws indiscriminately riots are often seen as a collective act of defiance or disapproval and that can be the result of a perceived issue like anger about the outcome of a sporting event or frustration with working or living conditions or conflicts between races and religions though the cause of the riot may be legitimate the group acts out in ways that are illegal and damaging to society as a whole so that's a riot so these are some aspects of collective behaviors you have fads mass hysteria and riots so you've probably heard these terms before and hopefully now you have a better understanding of what they mean particularly from a sociological standpoint