Mob Mentality

So about two weeks ago, I was sitting in my room in Pollack Halls. I had received a message in my sorority group chat that there were rumors of a clown in Pollack. Naturally I locked my door and just looked out the window. I saw nothing. About 30 Minutes later, I heard some screaming and joking around of just a few handfuls of kids. I still thought it was no big deal. Finally, an hour or so after, I heard a ROARING of students running through the residence halls and all over campus. Naturally I thought it was a joke and it was completely entertaining. It began to dawn on me as to why people would be out there if there was a rumored clown on the loose. I understand Penn State does not follow the norms of clown ‘protocol’.

My friend who goes to UD told me they had clown sightings a few days ago. But their reactions were rather different. They decided to go into lock down ( as I would assume normal people would). So whats up with this mob like tactic?

I then began to wonder what exactly is mob mentality. I had heard it in my Psychology classes throughout high school but had never really paid attention to the science behind it.


Picture found here.

First I decided to look at some basic knowledge regarding mob mentality before I get into some research. The definition of mob mentality is essentially, people acting as one by the influence of others. Basically, their identity is somewhat lost and they take the identity of a group. For example, You see a clown while your alone… YOU RUN. As opposed to you seeing a single clown in a group of 100, YOU CHARGE. So, what makes people adopt this sense of power?

According to a site I found here, when people are in a group setting they have no problem destroying property or acting violently due to the fact that they somewhat become invisible or their identity is lost. Being part of a group can leave individuals undetected to a point where they no longer feel accountable for their actions. Now, I am not trying to say Penn State took a violent turn towards the clown, but I am trying to describe the science behind this empowering mentality.

As I think about this more I am curious as to how we measure this ‘rage’. According to a article found here,  I checked out some more in-depth science behind mob mentality. First off how could we even measure physiological changes? I found out that it could be done in a magnetic brain scan. I found out that a section within your brain will lit up when ones thoughts regard themselves only. This area will appear dull or dormant in a group setting. The area they look for is specifically the prefrontal cortex. With that being said, during a study found within this article they tested two groups of people. One group was held in a group setting, the other was held as individuals completely alone. They were asked a bunch of questions that referred to judgement.

Some held in groups displayed a more inactive prefrontal cortex. This showed us that people in a group setting did prove they all subconsciously acknowledged the presence of other people and didn’t only think of themselves individually.

In this animated image created by Matt Groening and released by Twentieth Century Fox, the entire town of Springfield is transformed into an angry mob, in a scene from "The Simpsons" movie. (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox, Matt Groening)

picture found here.

4 thoughts on “Mob Mentality

  1. Xueyao Cao

    I really like the fact that you related the post to real life experience. Nowadays if we search “clowns”, we would probably see Penn State being mentioned in the content. Anyways, I took Psychology now and in high school. I felt that group norm is much powerful than we think it is. People are social animals, and are most likely being influenced by social behaviours and environments. At first, most of the people on the street that night didn’t even know what happened, all they did was running with the crowds together. I think the social psychology part really played an important role in that situation. Also as the you mentioned in the blog, our individual identity became less important in those situations. People acted as a whole group, rather than individuals.

  2. Christopher Ronkainen

    Talk about a relevant post! Although I did not participate in the now historic clown hunt, I am well aware of what it entailed. I find it very interesting that you took that event and then brought up the idea of mob mentality in one of these blog posts. I applaud you for that. Although this Time’s article does not relate to the Penn State clown hunt, it goes into great detail about the role mob mentality played in the attacks that occurred in Cologne, Hamburg. The ideas that you talked about in your post strongly relate to those talked about in this article.

  3. Jessica Heckler

    The clown sightings at Penn State will always be a hilarious memory of my freshman year looking back on it, but I’ll have to agree that I was surprised and a little bit concerned at the mobs of people running past my dorm in search for clowns. Like a clown was really just gonna stand there and let hundreds of people attack it? It didn’t make much sense to me but I agree with the idea of mob mentality, especially in this case. Everyone I have talked about clowns with have only ever mentioned running away from the clowns, not towards them. This sort of thing would only happen with the confidence coming from a group of people.
    Group settings make it way easier for people to do things they would never do alone. For example, singing on stage with a group or choir versus singing solo or standing up to a bully with a group of friends rather than standing up to them alone. Mob mentality works in many ways all throughout the stages of life.
    I think it would be interesting to conduct the same study on different age groups and splitting people up by gender to see how different age groups and genders react differently to mob mentality. I’m sure there would be some clear differences between age groups and am very curious if it has anything to do with brain development and the stages of it.

  4. Cristen Heaton

    This is a rather interesting post! I completely loved the fact that you took a real life experience and turned it into a blog post. I never really thought about the clown chasing here at Penn State as “mob mentality”. The whole sighting at Penn State was just a rumor though. The police never found the clown that everyone was seeing. I also think that your post needs more of a science explanation behind it. You did mention a study in your blog post but all you mentioned was the sample size and what they tested. I would like to know more about that study and I really think you could’ve expanded on that. I do really think it is interesting how mob mentality is a thing and as soon as a group of people get together, they all become invincible.

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