ArticlePDF Available

Blumer's Theory of Collective Behavior

Authors:
  • U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Article

Blumer's Theory of Collective Behavior

Abstract

The development of a transformation explanation for collective behavior is traced from LeBon's theory of crowd mind, through Park's dissertation on rational and critical discussion in publics versus psychic reciprocity in crowds, to Blumer's distinction between symbolic interaction in routine social life and circular reaction in collective behavior. The LeBon-Park-Blumer hypothesis holds that crowds transform individuals, diminishing or eliminating their ability to rationally control their behavior. The accumulated logical arguments and empirical evidence against the transformation hypothesis are reviewed. Some theoretical and methodological paradoxes are noted in Blumer's adoption of Park's rather than Mead's explanation for human behavior in problematic situations.
McPhail, Clark, Blumer's Theory of Collective Behavior: The Development of a
Non-Symbolic Interaction Explanation , Sociological Quarterly, 30:3 (1989:Fall)
p.401
... Whenever new movements emerge scholars raise questions about how its origins, tactics, and effects fit into existing theoretical paradigms and or demand new theories to account for them (Gusfield 1994;59;Zald 1992). This pattern of debate began in the late nineteenth century when the first wave of professional sociologists developed the "collective behavior" or "mass society" approach to movements (McPhail 1989;McPhail 1991;Moscovicci 1985). Since that time, there have been two major paradigm shifts in the field of social movements studies. ...
... In 1895, the French scholar, Gustave LeBon, elevated the collective behavior tradition into a full-blown scientific theory of mass action with the publication of his book The Crowd. The book charted a new course in collective 7 behavior research by arguing that the participants in mass demonstrations were normal people whose behavior would shift by virtue of joining others in crowds (McPhail 1989;Van Ginneken 1985). Eschewing the eugenic arguments of earlier works in the tradition, LeBon suggested that all humans have the "genotypic characteristics" that can lead them to lose their "conscious personalit[ies]" in "the collective mind" of a crowd (1895, 57). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper examines the ways that social movement organizations (SMOs) affiliated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement use Twitter through three content analysis studies. The main finding presented in the paper is that the modal tweet generated by the BLM accounts between December 1, 2015 and October 31, 2016 was an emotional response—an expression of sadness, outrage, or despair—to the traumas of police brutality and killings of African Americans. The second key finding is that BLM organizations generated more tweets that framed the movement as a struggle for individual rights than ones that utilized frames about gender, racial, and LGBTQ identities. Finally, the analyses presented in the paper suggest that BLM activists urge their followers to pursue disruptive repertoires of contention less frequently than they encourage other political behaviors—i.e., petitioning government agencies, contacting elected officials, and voting. These findings suggest that the Black Lives Matter movement is intelligible through both the resource mobilization and new social movement paradigms within social movement studies.
... A number of studies have adopted a sociological perspective to analyse the ecological mechanism of the formation of masses of social unrest (e.g. McAdam & Paulsen, 1993;McPhail, 1989;Soriano & Sreekumar, 2012). However, this perspective has not been sufficiently utilised to explain strike actions in general, and in the contemporary Chinese industrial relations context more specifically. ...
Article
Research on labour disputes in China has primarily adopted a political economy perspective to focus on state-owned enterprises inland and foreign-invested plants in economically developed zones. Research has neglected community-based protests in small private firms in urbanising areas and their implications for human resource management and employment relations. This paper addresses this gap through an in-depth case study of a community-based, village cadres and clan leaders-led protest (including strike actions) against a privately-owned metal work factory located in a local community. Deploying the notion of community politics and ‘acquaintance society’, the study enriches our knowledge of industrial actions in China by extending the analytical scope of the context to understand the motive and choice of actions of individuals in participating in the disputes, and modes of dispute resolution. The study reveals the important role of social institutions and cultural norms, as well as the significance of discrete interventions of bureaucrats in the outcome of the dispute. We find that the settlement of community-based (labour) disputes may not officially involve key formal institutional actors, such as the trade union and legal/government authority. Rather, these institutional actors may be involved in an unofficial capacity, though drawing on power derived from their bureaucratic position in the intervention.
... К. МакФейл [21], Р. Тернер и Л. Киллиан [22], напротив, отмечали важность координации и организации для привлечения внимания общественности и мобилизации сторонников. ...
Article
The article deal with the analysis of the phenomenon of collective action. A review of modern ideas about the features of collective action, mass action in politics is made. The great importance of collective identity in the process of organizing and implementing of collective actions is indicated. The network nature of modern collective actions and the significant influence of information and communication technologies in the process of their organization are noted. To illustrate the features of collective action in Russia, the article presents the results of a longitudinal study of collective action conducted since 2014 by interviewing experts from various regions of the Russian Federation (annual sample of at least 14 Russian regions and at least 155 experts). The study allows us to identify the dynamics of the activity of collective actions, the features of their organization, the trends of cooperation, the intensity of protest actions. The conclusion is made about the slowdown in the growth of civic activism and collective action. Relative growth is observed only in their manifestation on the Internet. There is a gradual decrease in the politicization of collective action and youth involvement in mass action. At the same time, the role of Internet tools in organizing politicized collective actions is increasing. The article analyzes the actors of collective action. It is concluded that the development of the Internet is a factor contributing to the formation of wider coalitions in the process of organizing and carrying out of collective actions and the increasing activity of unregistered public associations. It is indicated that there is a tendency for the development of network characteristics of collective actions in modern Russia.
... Постепенно они погашаются коллективной сущностью. При этом индивидуальная анонимность многими исследователями считается благо приятным фактором для коллективного поведения, так как позволяет чувствовать се бя менее ответственными за конкретные действия и поэтому более восприимчивыми к «поглощению» толпой (McPhail, 1989). Однако Д. Нил отмечал, что индивидуальная анонимность, наоборот, противодействует интенсивному коллективному действию, так как анонимные индивиды не вступают в социальные связи, необходимые для осу ществления коллективного действия (Neil, 1993). ...
Article
Full-text available
p>Статья посвящена анализу подходов в зарубежной науке к пониманию значимого социально-политического феномена — коллективных действий граждан, трактовка которых разная. Выделяется два подхода к пониманию коллективных действий: как отклоняющегося поведения (И. Друри, С. Скот) и как рационального поведения, направленного на защиту своих прав и интересов (К. Д. Опп, С. М. Бичлер). Ключевое значение для формирования коллективных общностей людей, осуществления ими целенаправленных действий имеет, по мнению исследователей, чувство общности, идентичности. При этом есть расхождения во мнениях, что первично: идентичность, которая стимулирует к коллективным действиям, или коллективные действия, которые позволяют формироваться идентичности коллективно действующих людей. Чем сильнее индивидуумы идентифицируют себя с группой, тем более вероятно, что они будут участвовать в акциях поддержки данной группы, иных формах коллективного действия. Современные исследователи акцентируют внимание на особой значимости сетевых структур информационно-коммуникационных технологий (Интернета, социальных сетей), позволяющих приобретать коллективным действиям большую эффективность. В этих условиях между индивидуумами постепенно формируются устойчивые взаимоотношения, укрепляющие саму организацию коллективных действий. Автор соглашается с рядом исследователей в том, что коллективные действия не всегда заранее подготовлены. Они изначально могут быть спонтанными, и только впоследствии может формироваться координирующий механизм. Законодательное регулирование коллективных действий снижает возможности спонтанного их проявления. В то же время отсутствие иерархической организации, неопределенность (двусмысленность) ситуации и событий, эмоциональная основа и опыт предыдущих действий, пространственные контексты и ограничения, наоборот, способствуют спонтанности коллективных действий.</p
... At the same time, it is difficult to reproduce a rich VR environment such as a pedestrian crowd that integrates multiple sensory modalities in real time. For example, depending on the crowd psychological state [8], the participant may expect to see a large number of people walking in different directions, hear sounds over a wide range of frequencies and loudness, and possibly brush shoulders and get pushed intermittently. In a visual display itself, the virtual agents in the crowd must respond to the participant's movements in real time [9], and not collide or move through each other [10]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In this paper, we study the effect of instructional priming on postural responses to virtual crowds using a headset-based virtual reality (VR) platform. Specifically, we instruct VR participants that one of the virtual agents in a simulated crowd represents the movement of a real person, and reinforce this instruction by having a single role player present in the experimental arena. Our results show that while VR participants who were primed did not move significantly more when three-dimensional movement was considered, they exhibit significantly more movement in the direction perpendicular to the crowd flow indicating possible collision avoidance maneuvers. These results indicate that manipulation of instructions to participants with the intent of impacting pre-exposure expectations may be used to increase engagement with virtual crowds.
Article
The value of arts-based projects within the criminal justice system is well documented, as research has identified positive outcomes relating to inmates’ behavior and their relationships with others. This article examines the work of the Soft Touch Arts project at HMP Leicester, UK and identifies the importance of hope as a transformative outcome. Interviews with artists in prison and community settings demonstrated the value of engaging in creative and purposeful activity, generating hope which enabled artists to aspire to a better future. This occurred alongside ameliorating the harms of prison and helping artists manage their relationship with probation services.
Article
This monograph examines the history of the “suggestion doctrine,” a theory of communicative influence that arose in social psychology at the turn of the 20th century and was applied to the study of media effects before World War II. During that period, suggestion theory was one of the foremost psychological explanations of opinion change and a dominant theory of media influence. Despite its long prominence in early social science and media studies, the doctrine has been largely ignored in contemporary histories of mass communication research. Although writers debate the origins and nature of early media effects scholarship, few of the contending parties address the role of the suggestion doctrine, and those who do offer but a passing reference. My purpose here, therefore, is to recover an important but forgotten part of the intellectual history of the field.
Article
In 1969, social psychologist Milgram and his colleagues conducted an experiment on a busy city street where passers-by witnessed a set of actors spontaneously looking up towards a building. The experiment showed that the crowd's propensity to mimic the actor's gaze increased with the number of actors that looked up. This form of behavioural contagion is found in many social organisms and is central to how information travels through large groups. With the advancement of virtual reality and its continued application towards understanding human response to crowd behaviour, it remains to be verified if behavioural contagion occurs in walkable virtual environments, and how it compares with results from real-world experiments. In this study, we adapt Milgram's experiment for virtual environments and use it to reproduce behavioural contagion. Specifically, we construct a replica of an indoor location and combine two established pedestrian motion models to create an interactive crowd of 60 virtual characters that walk through the indoor location. The stimulus group comprised a subset of the characters who look up at a random time as the participants explore the virtual environment. Our results show that the probability of looking up by a participant is dependent on the size of the stimulus group saturating to near certainty when three or more characters look up. The role of stimulus size was also evident when participant actions were compared with survey responses which showed that more participants selected to not look up even though they saw characters redirect their gaze upwards when the size of the stimulus group was small. Participants also spent more time looking up and exhibited frequent head turns with a larger stimulus group. Results from this study provide evidence that behavioural contagion can be triggered in the virtual environment, and can be used to build and test complex hypotheses for understanding human behaviour in a variety of crowd scenarios.
Preprint
Full-text available
Guía para el estudio de la acción colectiva, las protestas y los movimientos sociales