We generally like to think of ourselves as individuals and appreciate our unique qualities, but when thrown into a group we can become very different people. Ideas and actions can spread like viruses until your individuality is completely wiped away. This is called deindividuation and here's how it works.
The wonderful blog You Are Not So Smart is back with another great article, this time detailing what happens to you when you're lost in the frenzy of a large group or crowd. This is possible because we are essentially anonymous in a large group. All it takes is a little arousal — as much as a statement from one member of the group — to get everyone riled up and lost in the moment.
Psychologists call this phenomenon deindividuation, it's fun to say and one of the more straightforward terms in the scientific lexicon. In certain situations, you can expect to be de-individualized. Unlike conformity, in which you adopt the ideas and behaviours of others for acceptance and inclusion, deindividuation is mostly unconscious and more likely to lead to mischief. As psychologist David G. Myers said, it is "doing together what you would not do alone."
The article mentions a couple of studies, pointing to a simple way to avoid this problem: remind yourself of your individuality to lose the feeling of anonymity you gain in a group. This can be as simple as saying your name out loud to prime yourself with thoughts of identity. This can help prevent you from taking part in some potentially horrible group actions you'll later regret.
For a more detailed and fascinating look at deindividuation, be sure to read the full post over at You Are Not So Smart.
Deindividuation [You Are Not So Smart]