I was reading a Psyblog post talking about the myths of crowd psychology. One of the common claims is that crowds are suggestible.
2. Crowds are suggestible
The idea that people in crowds have heightened suggestibility is also a relatively common myth. People are said to copy each other, looking for a leader, being open to others’ suggestion about how they should behave, perhaps resulting from a lack of social structure.
Schweingruber and Wohlstein simply find no research to back up this claim. If there is some truth to the idea that people in crowds are suggestible, no one has managed to demonstrate it empirically. One scholar has asked why, if crowds are so suggestible, they don’t disperse when asked to do so by an authority figure.
[PWC] What do you think? Are crowds suggestible?
Maybe there is a prevailing belief or conviction that states that when in a crowd, people should ignore authority and follow their emotional convictions. Perhaps crowds are only suggestible to certain TYPES of suggestions – such as words like “Terrorist” or “Fire” that trigger instant emotional response and a “wake up” signal to the conscious mind.
Also, lets think about what it means to “study [crowd psychology]”
Crowd psychology, in this instance, is being used as a nominalization. The standard test for whether or not something is a nominalization is, “can you put it in a wheelbarrow?” or “can you hold it in your hand?”
The word “crowd psychology” has a lot of ACTIVITY associated with it. There’s a lot going on there. When you study the mind, does the mind ever stop? And multiple minds, certainly you have some voices here and some voices there.
One scholar has asked why, if crowds are so suggestible, they don’t disperse when asked to do so by an authority figure.
So I dispute the way that “crowds” is being used in this context. When you nominalize words, they get frozen in time and instead of a “movie” you get a “picture.” And more importantly, you lose a LOT of “data” when you go from a movie to a picture.
Also notice how this is structured. Always look for structure. “Such and such simply find no research to back up this claim” — that could only mean that they did a meta-analysis of all of the secondary data / existing research, and said that there wasn’t enough conclusive evidence, to date.