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Social Contagion

 

Explanations > Theories > Social Contagion

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

Emotion can spread rapidly through large crowds, as the massive social proof leads us into extreme states. This explains much of crowd behavior, where ‘normal’ people act in ways they may later deeply regret.

Social contagion effects can also occur when people believe they have been infected by a disease. As more people show the (psychosomatic) symptoms, this is taken as proof that ‘I am bound to get it’.

Example

Just watch football matches and see how the crowd reacts almost as one. Or go along and experience it for yourself!

So what?

Using it

To wind someone up, take them to an exciting mass-audience event, from sports to rock concerts. Whilst they are in the flow of the moment, start whooping and dancing wildly. They may well join in. Then take a photo of them and show all your friends...

Defending

When at crowd events, by all means get swept up in the enjoyment, but keep a part of you separate, watching for inappropriate behavior in other people. Let it step in to prevent you from slipping over the cliff into hysteria.

See also

Informational Social Influence, Normative Social Influence, Deindividuation, Mood-Congruent Judgment

 

References

Gustav LeBon (1895), Jones and Jones (1995)

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