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European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 14, 1-21 (1984) The St. Pauls’ riot: an explanation of the limits of crowd action in terms of a social identity model*? S. D. REICHER Department of Psychology, The University, Dundee DD14HN, Scotland Abstract The paper contains a detailed study o
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  European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol 14, 1 21 1984) The St. Pauls’ riot: an explanation of the limits of crowd action in terms of a social identity model*? S. D REICHER Department of Psychology, The University, Dundee DD14HN, Scotland Abstract The paper contains a detailed study of the St. Pauls’ riots of April 1980. Particular attention is paid to the limits of participation in the event and the limits of crowd action. It is argued that these limits show clear social form and cannot be explained in terms of the individualistic theories that dominate crowd psychology. Instead a model of cro wd behaviour based on the social identity model is advanced to account for the observations. It s concluded that crowd behaviour s more sophisticated and creative than hitherto allowed and that the neglect of this jield should be remedied. INTRODUCTION The fascination of crowd psychology lies in the fact that it seeks to account for behaviour that shows clear social coherence-in the sense of a large amount of people acting in the same manner-despite the lack of either pre-planning or any structured direction. The theoretical interest lies in the attempt to discover a psychological basis for this coherence. There is however a more pragmatic reason why such behaviour is of concern: it relates to the social consequence of such behaviour. Out of such concern was crowd psychology born. The discipline emerged towards the end of last century as an establishment response to a wave of working class unrest. Faced with seemingly spontaneous protest actions involving large homogeneous masses, the establishment sought less to understand than to discredit and repress the threat. Indeed the earliest works on the crowd were written by criminologists discussing on what basis to punish crowd participants-should all be considered guilty or just a criminal core of ringleaders who incited the others? cf: Tarde, 1890; Sighele, 1892). Moreover the most influential of all books on the crowd: Le Bon’s The Crowd-A Study ofthe Popular Mind (1947) gained its repute not through any theoretical novelty (it is, if anything, ‘This research was carried out while the author was being supported by an SSRC esearch studentship at Bristol University. ?A slightly shorter version of this paper is to be published by the Open University under the title ‘St. Pauls: a study in the limits of crowd behavior’. 0046-2772/84/010001-2 1 02.10 1984 by John Wiley Sons, Ltd. Received 4 March 1983 Revised 20 May 1983  2 S. D. Reicher an object lesson in plagiarism) but rather through its conscious attempt to advise the establishment on how to contain crowds or even use them against the socialist opposition. For his efforts Le Bon gained fulsome praise from, amongst others, Mussolini and Goebbels. Only by bearing in mind the circumstances of its birth is t possible to understand the biases that permeate theoretical explanations of crowd behaviour. Because they were not prepared to admit that crowd action may have been a response to gross social inequality and active repression, theorists were forced to ignore the social context in which such actions occurred. This had a number of consequences, both in terms of description and of theory. On the descriptive level certain characteristics of the syndicalist crowds-as they appeared to these ‘gentleman’ observers-were abstracted from the context of class struggle and converted into generic characteris- tics of the crowd: violence, irrationality, fickleness, mental inferiority. On a theoret- ical level there were two ways in which the social causation of crowd behaviour was denied. The older. exemplified by Le Bon, is group mind theory. This asserts that indi- viduals in the crowd lose their conscious personality and revert to a primitive racial unconscious which accounts for the barbarism of crowd action. Slightly more mod- em is the extreme individualism of Allport who asserts that the individual in the crowd is the same as the individual alone ‘only more so’ cf: Allport, 1924, p. 295). While these two approaches are diametrically opposed to each other, the one proposing individuality is extinguished in the crowd the other that it is accentuated, they are nonetheless united in one crucial premise. Both suggest that the only mechanism capable of directing planned or rational behaviour is a sovereign indi- vidual identity. The principal problem with such approaches is that they systematically exclude any social basis for the coherence of crowd behaviour. Not only does this imply that crowd behaviour lacks socially meaningful form but also that it is insensitive to social context. These problems become clearer when one considers the nature of the limits of crowd events. One can consider the question of limits in the senses. Firstly the limits of partici- pation: that is who does and who does not take part in crowd events. Secondly the limits of content: this addresses which actions do and which do not occur during a crowd event. Concerning the question of participation the group mind theory would suggest that all members of a given race will take part. Such an approach fails before Milgram and Toch’s most basic of criteria: to explain why riot police do not get drawn in by the rhetoric of a crowd demagogue cf: Milgram and Toch, 1969). On the other hand, the individualistic approach predicts that participation will be tied to personality type. However, despite attempts to do so, no common trait has ever been found to distinguish membership versus non-membership of a crowd cf: McPhail, 1970). Turning to content, both approaches are even more inadequate. The group mind theory has little to say except that whatever the situation a crowd of the same race will always act in the same way and that violence and mayhem will be involved; the crowd is only powerful for destruction says Le Bon (1947). Allportian individual- ism can only seek to tie behaviours to personality, but this is both empirically and theoretically insufficient. Empirically, as noted above, no common trait character-  Limits of crowd behaviour 3 izes crowd participation, but even if it did it is unclear how personality factors could determine the precise behaviours of any crowd event. Despite the antiquity of these theories their influence on later work has perpetu- ated exactly the same problems as those outlined above. (It should be noted that the focus of concern here is specifically on the psychology of crowd action. General models of social movements are of interest only insofar as they relate specifically to this question.) The group mind tradition is most directly represented in de- individuation theory which is a translation of the Le Bonian notion of ‘sub- mergence’. The idea is that individuals in unstructured groups cease self-evaluation. This causes a weakening of conventional controls resulting in behaviour which is generally uncontrolled and destructive (Festinger, Pepitone and Newcomb, 1952; Zimbardo, 1969). There is a double problem with this approach. First, the de- individuation literature ignores the context of behaviour and fails to distinguish between anonymity in a group and anonymity when isolated. There is evidence that individuals who are de-individuated in groups do not always behave anti-socially, but rather show increased adherence to group norms (Reicher, 1982a; White, 1977). Secondly, crowd members appear as anonymous only with respect to out- siders and are nearly always known to some other crowd members (McPhail, 1971). There are two principal ways in which the individualistic tradition is represented in modem crowd-related research. The first is ‘social-facilitation’ theory which proposes that presence of an audience accentuates the distinctiveness of individual behaviour patterns. While there is much controversy over the theoretical basis of this relationship cf: Geen and Gange, 1977; Sanders, 1981) there is consensus as to the effects. Thus the model is insensitive both to the nature of the audience and to the context in which the subject is acting. While it may propose that behaviours will be more extreme it cannot account for the content of social behaviours. The second major individualistic approach is that of game theorists such as Olson (1965), taken up by sociologists such as Oberschall (1973) and developed into a psychological rational caiculus by Berk (1972, 1974). The idea is that individuals act as a joint function of ‘payoff and ‘probability of support’. In the crowd the values of the second term are altered leading to more extreme behaviours. How- ever, the model specifies neither what behaviours will be displayed nor how ‘payoff’ or ‘probability of support’ are to be assessed. Since understanding those behaviours which will elicit a high probability of support addresses the central questions of the basis for contagion or social influence in the crowd this approach begs the practical questions of crowd psychology. In other words it acts less as a specification of the mechanisms underlying crowd behaviour than as a meta: theoretical justification of crowd action as individual rational choice. In recent years, however, two novel approaches to the crowd have been advanced. The first is emergent norm theory (Turner and Killian, 1972). This proposes that crowd behaviour is governed by social norms. These norms emerge during an initial period of ‘milling’ when the actions of visually prominent individu- als (‘keynoting activities’) come to be seen as characteristic of the crowd as a whole. Thus it is implied that the homogeneity of crowds-in an initial period at least-is an illusion. Yet even an avowed supporter of the position admits that the rapidity with which norms arise does not square with this picture of extended interaction as a pre-requisite for norm formation (Wright, 1978). There is, however, a more basic  4 S. D. Reicher problem with emergent norm theory. In explaining the genesis of emergent norms, Turner and Killian relate them simply to the activities of keynoters. As such their position resolves itself into elitist version of Allportian individualism; instead of crowd behaviour being explained in terms of the personalities of all participants it is tied to the personality of a dominant few. The second novel approach is that taken by Moscovici (1981). Moscovici pro- poses that mass behaviour is characterized by the persistence of mythologized per- ceptions of the past in the form of collective representations. These representations are based on ‘persons and situations with which we are identified, our parents, our nation, a war or a revolution with which especially powerful emotions are associ- ated’ (1981, p. 392). While Moscovici is above all concerned with the nature of charismatic leadership .(which, he argues, resides upon the ability to reconcile the dialectic between order and equality through association with idealized images of past tyrants) and less with the details of crowd behaviour, the concept of identifica- tion and its related representations as a basis for crowd action provides a powerful conceptual tool. The concept of identification is central to the model of crowd behaviour adopted by Reicher (1982a, b, forthcoming). This model is based on the social identity approach of Tajfel and Turner cf: Tajfel, 1978; Turner, 1982). In essence, it is argued that a crowd is a form of social group in the sense of a set of individuals who perceive themselves as members of a common social category, or to put it another way, adopt a common social identification. Turner (1982) argues that social iden- tification is a necessary and sufficient condition for a form of social influence which he calls ‘Referent Informational Influence’ (R.I.I.). This refers to a process whereby group members seek out the stereotypic norms which define category membership and conform their behaviour to them. It is, in effect, a process of self-stereotyping. The implications of R.I.I. provide a basis for understanding the characteristics of crowd action. In order to account for the operation of R.I.I. it is necessary to consider what characterizes the crowd as a special form of group. Three criteria must obtain for a group to be considered as a crowd. The first is that group members are face to face, the second is that the situation in which the group acts is in some way novel or ambiguous and the third is that all formal means of reaching group consensus are blocked. The significance of these conditions lies in the following dilemma: how are crowd members to conform to stereotypic norms when the fact that they are in an unprecedented situation means that there are no appropriate norms? The answer is that crowd members must elaborate an approp- riate situational identity which at once provides a guide for action and conforms to their common social identification. The way in which this will be done is through what Turner (1982) calls the ‘inductive aspect of categorization’. In other words, criteria1 norms will be inferred from the actions of others as long as (a) they are clearly seen as ingroup members, and (b) that the action is consonant with the attributes of defining their social identification. For this to occur, however, the crowd members must be face to face. It is clear, however, that a range of behaviours will satisfy these two conditions. Since there is no formal means of validating a given behavioural norm-either by means of orders in a hierarchical system or a democratic decision-making process-then crowd norms may quickly be super- ceded as new behaviours come to be seen as more appropriate. This would account for the rapidly changing yet homogeneous nature of crowd action cf: Wright, 1978).
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