Collective Behavior

11908 words 48 pages
Chapter I: The Study of Collective Behavior
A. What Is Collective Behavior?
As we review these pages for the final time sections of Los Angeles are in flames in response to a jury verdict exonerating police whose beating of an African American man was captured on videotape. Supporters and opponents of abortion take to the streets daily. Mexico City searches for answers to a gas explosion that leveled a 40 square block area. The number of men wearing pony tails and one earring and the number of people saying and understanding "yo, dude" seems to be increasing. These diverse actions fall within the area sociologists call collective behavior.
Some fields in sociology are relatively easy to define and their meaning can be grasped immediately,
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To begin with the topic has some highly practical aspects. In 1979 at a rock concert by the "Who" at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium 11 people died. They were among many thousands waiting in line to enter the stadium. They were crushed to death when a stadium door opened and the crowd surged forward. Better architectural design and crowd management might have avoided this tragedy. In a related example there is sometimes needless loss of life and injury when persons inside a smoke filled auditorium panic and all run for the exit, rather than exiting in an orderly fashion. Knowledge of how people respond in such situations can lead to physical design and the training of personnel so that "unnecessary" damage does not occur.
In more contentious settings such as prison riots, (e.g. Attica in 1971 or civil disorders such as. Watts in 1964, Detroit and Newark in 1967) knowledge of crowd behavior and social movements can reduce loss of life and injury and help prevent conflict from escalating in a destructive way. Most of the loss of life during the 1960s urban civil disorders was caused not by protestors, but by control agents who, lacking experience in crowd control and holding discredited or inappropriate ideas about crowds, frequently overreacted. (Marx 1970)
The importance of understanding behavior in disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tidal waves, and nuclear accidents is obvious. Research, education and planning can make it more likely

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