What Is Deindividuation (And How Can Online Therapy Help?)
Have you heard of "mob mentality?" Most people might know the phrase but don't know that there's a generally regarded psychological term for it: deindividuation. The term is used by many to refer to how people in a group can lose their sense of identity, possibly causing them to behave in ways they normally wouldn't as a result.
Often, it can result in “innocent” crowd-oriented behavior—but not always. The more serious results of deindividuation can include anxiety disorder formation and co-dependency, to name a few.
Deindividuation can be a serious and dangerous issue for some unless you know what to watch for. Read on to learn more about the condition and possible supportive strategies that can help.
Your identity is generally a core part of who you are. It can include your self-awareness, your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Self-awareness, in this context, is defined as being aware of yourself in relation to your standards. It's knowing your character, your morals, and your desires—all of which can be significant factors to consider as you continue to define your personhood.
The more the person becomes involved in the group, the less self-awareness they may have, which includes a possible loss of ownership and awareness of their morals, character and beliefs. These qualities, then, might start to be replaced by the identity of the group. The individual may then begin to take on the morals and character that is held by the group as a whole, for better or for worse.
For example: Think of being surrounded by fans at your favorite team's home game. Everybody's likely yelling, some people might be thumping their chests, and you might find yourself jumping up and down. You might not exhibit these behaviors if you were standing there by yourself. However, being a part of the crowd might carry you away from your personal identity, possibly leaving you to feel free to do things you normally wouldn't.
In some cases—like the game scenario above—acting differently in a group is not necessarily a “bad” thing, as long as you are able to remain aware of your own core values and beliefs.
Examples Of Deindividuation
Classic examples of deindividuation can include the formation and operation of gangs, cults and large mobs of people who are unified by a governing set of beliefs or a code of conduct. The military is also generally thought to use elements of deindividuation as part of its training regimen, encouraging unified movement and thought.
There are several examples of research that has been done regarding deindividuation and group dynamics. For example: In 1971, a psychologist by the name of Philip Zimbardo had been documented conducting an experiment to test the impact of deindividuation.
In one of his experiments, he split up a group of male students from Stanford University. Half of them were to act as prisoners and the other half were to behave as guards. The experiment was to last for two weeks, and everyone was told to play the role in their assigned group.
However, the time frame had to be cut short and the experiment stopped after only six days. Many have found that this was because the guards had ended up grouping up—which resulted in many treating the prisoners so badly that they could not continue with the activities.
This study on group dynamics became known to many as the Stanford Prison Experiment.
We also can see group dynamics shift in many historic examples of mass looting after traumatic weather events. Take, for example, the time period that occurred when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. The devastation was thought by many to “shut down” the city, and mass looting followed.
People weren’t just looting essential supplies either; many videos from helicopters were able to capture images of people walking out of stores carrying televisions, tech, and just about everything else you can think of.
Many might agree that most people wouldn't normally engage in such activity in their own individual sphere of existence, but during this crisis, it became a common event in many areas. Many believe that this may be because people didn't feel they would be held responsible for their actions, so they crossed a line they might not have otherwise to satisfy their own motives or needs.
The Dangers Of Deindividuation
While there are some positive situations that can come as a result of deindividuation, it can often be dangerous for those who are affected. This causes many to ask the question: Why do people engage in behavior that they might know is wrong?
There are several reasons why this can occur. We’ve summarized them below:
- People might loosen their self-restraint in a group setting. They might feel empowered to seek and join a crowd mentality, which can prompt many to begin to act in the way the crowd is acting. In this context, people may not choose to focus on the morality of a given situation. Rather, they might begin to adopt the behaviors and attitudes of the groups that they are with, regardless if such things align with one’s personal morals.
- When acting as a crowd, people might feel that they cannot be found. This feeling can give them a sense of invisibility to act in ways they might not normally behave.
- There might be an attitude of diffused responsibility in a group setting. When acting as a group, people might get the feeling that responsibility is spread out among others, possibly empowering them to take behavioral risks if they don’t believe that they will be personally at fault. This can also encourage them to take less responsibility for their own actions, especially if they don’t believe that the consequences will be as drastic.
How To Reduce The Effects Of Deindividuation
Know Who You Are
The first step for many when it comes to reducing deindividuation is to help people be (and remain) self-aware. If you are going somewhere with a large group of people, for example, you might take a moment and think through what your morals and values are. It can be helpful to know what you stand for and where the line is you you might be unwilling to cross.
If you are in a situation and feel yourself starting to get caught up in the energy of the crowd, you might consider removing yourself from the situation before you start to experience a change in your behavior. You can also remind yourself that you can be responsible for your behavior, regardless of how many other people are doing the same thing.
Focus On The Individual (Whether It’s You Or Someone Else)
If you are trying to help reduce the effects of deindividuation in your life (or someone else’s), a helpful first step can be to encourage them to focus on their individual identity.
To begin, you might talk directly to them and address them by name. You can then begin to look for helpful strategies that make them (or yourself) more self-aware. You can then talk to them about their specific activities and what they're doing, possibly focusing on the actions’ impact on other people.
Seek Support Through Therapy
If you believe you're experiencing the effects of deindividuation, working one-on-one with a therapist can help you get to the place where you have more self-awareness—possibly helping you to discover who you are. A therapist can also help you to forgive yourself and take correct steps to move forward from any past behaviors that might have been done as a result of deindividuation.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp: How Can Online Therapy Support Those Experiencing Deindividuation?
If you or someone you know is experiencing this, it can be important to seek the help of a trusted professional. However, this may be easier said than done for many, as the very prospect of outside support can feel overwhelming at times. BetterHelp offers convenient availability to online therapists who are ready to help you regain your awareness of self and keep control of it, even when in a large crowd.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Online therapy has become increasingly popular across many social groups over the last few years, but researchers have been gauging its flexibility for some time. Veterans are actually one of the most common populations to have been studied, many of whom may have been specifically seeking support for deindividuation and its effects.
The New York Times recently ran an article about online therapy and cited two different studies where veterans were split into two groups: one group did traditional in-person therapy, and the other group did online therapy. Both studies found information that suggests that both types of therapy are equally effective.
What is deindividuation, and why does it occur?
Deindividuation is a concept in social psychology that describes the tendency for individuals to perceive themselves and others in terms of their group identity rather than as unique individuals. It occurs when reduced self-awareness causes someone to become less focused on their personal identity, values, and self-regulation. Instead, they align themselves more closely with the norms and behaviors of their group. Several factors can contribute to deindividuation, including anonymity, group size, and emotional arousal.
- Anonymity: When individuals feel anonymous, such as wearing a mask in a crowd or participating in an online forum with a pseudonym, they may be more likely to engage in behaviors they wouldn't in their identifiable state. Anonymity reduces the fear of consequences and personal accountability.
- Group size: Deindividuation tends to be more pronounced in larger groups, where individual identity can feel submerged within the group's collective identity. In such situations, people may conform to crowd behavior more readily and participate in actions they wouldn't typically engage in.
- Emotional arousal: Strong emotional arousal, whether positive or negative, can also contribute to deindividuation. For example, during celebrations or protests, people might lose their individuality and engage in actions they wouldn't otherwise.
The consequences of deindividuation can be both positive and negative. On one hand, it can lead to increased group cohesiveness and a sense of belonging. On the other hand, it may result in reduced personal responsibility for one's actions within the group, potentially leading to destructive or disinhibited behavior.
The social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE) suggests that deindividuation can also lead to increased stereotyping and prejudice against outgroups as individuals become more focused on their group identity and less on their values. Group polarization, where individuals become more extreme in their beliefs and behaviors when surrounded by like-minded people, can also occur during deindividuation.
For instance, in situations of deindividuation, individuals might participate in mob behavior, online trolling, or acts of vandalism, as they perceive their actions as less reflective of their identity and more aligned with the group's collective identity. Therefore, understanding deindividuation is crucial in social psychology, as it sheds light on how group dynamics and anonymity can influence human behavior, both positively and negatively.
What is an example of deindividuation?
An example of deindividuation can be seen in the context of mob behavior.
Individuation is how individuals become more self-aware and develop a distinct sense of identity. This concept often involves adhering to societal norms, values, and personal morals. However, when individuals become part of a crowd or mob, they may experience deindividuation.
People in a large group or crowd may feel a sense of anonymity and reduced personal accountability. This diminished self-awareness can lead to a loss of individual identity and a tendency to act in ways they might not typically behave when alone. In such situations, group members might engage in behaviors they would consider inappropriate or even immoral under normal circumstances.
For example, during a riot or protest, individuals within a mob may vandalize property, engage in violence, or commit acts they would never consider as individuals. This behavior is often attributed to the deindividuation that occurs when people in the crowd feel less accountable for their actions due to the perceived anonymity and reduced self-awareness.
Decreased self-evaluation and increased social evaluation can also occur, leading individuals to focus more on fitting in with the group rather than adhering to their standards. This phenomenon highlights the power of group membership dynamics and how they can influence individual behavior.
What is the main idea of deindividuation?
The main idea of deindividuation is that individuals tend to perceive themselves and others in terms of their group identity rather than as unique individuals when they experience reduced self-awareness.
Deindividuation can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. When group member similarity and cohesion increase, it can foster a sense of belonging and social support. However, when individuals lose their sense of personal responsibility, they may engage in destructive or antisocial behaviors. Group decision-making can also become polarized, leading to extreme positions or actions that individuals would not typically take on their own.
Overall, deindividuation highlights the complex nature of group dynamics and how they can influence individual behavior. It is essential to understand this phenomenon to promote positive collective behaviors and prevent harmful ones in group settings. When adverse outcomes occur due to deindividuation, it is crucial to address the underlying factors and promote individual self-awareness to mitigate its effects.
What is deindividuation in social roles?
Deindividuation in social roles refers to the tendency for individuals to become more focused on fulfilling their assigned role within a group rather than acting as individuals with personal identities and values. In situations where individuals are given specific roles or tasks within a group, they may experience reduced self-awareness and perceive themselves primarily in terms of their role's expectations.
One example of deindividuation in social roles is the Stanford Prison Experiment, where participants were assigned either prisoner or guard roles. The participants quickly adopted their assigned roles and engaged in behaviors that aligned with those roles despite their personal values and morals. This behavior was attributed to the perceived anonymity and reduced self-awareness within their designated role, leading to a loss of personal identity.
Role conformity often led to increased cruelty and aggression within the experiment, highlighting the dangerous consequences of deindividuation in social roles. Leadership can also play a significant role in this phenomenon, where individuals may feel more inclined to conform to their assigned role's expectations if they perceive a strong leader figure. When leaders encourage harmful or unethical behaviors, deindividuation in social roles can have severe consequences for both individuals and society as a whole.
What is the meaning of deindividuation?
At its most basic level, deindividuation refers to the process by which individuals lose their individual identity and become part of a group or crowd. This loss of self-awareness can lead to increased conformity, reduced personal responsibility, and a heightened focus on the collective identity rather than individual values and beliefs.
What is an example of deindividuation in the classroom?
An example of deindividuation in the classroom could be a class project where students are divided into different groups and given specific roles. In this scenario, students may begin to focus more on fulfilling their assigned role rather than expressing their thoughts and ideas. For instance, a student may feel pressured to conform to their group's ideas, even if they do not personally agree with them, due to the anonymity and reduced self-awareness within their assigned role. When this occurs, it can lead to a lack of critical thinking and individual expression within the classroom setting.
Teachers can mitigate the effects of deindividuation in the classroom by promoting individual expression and encouraging students to think critically about their assigned roles. It is also essential for teachers to foster a supportive and inclusive environment where students feel comfortable expressing their opinions and beliefs without fear of judgment or rejection from their peers. By promoting individual self-awareness and discouraging conformity, teachers can promote positive learning outcomes and prevent harmful group behaviors within the classroom setting.
Is deindividuation good or bad?
Deindividuation can provide both positive and negative outcomes, depending on the context. In situations where group cohesion and similarity increase, it can foster a sense of belonging and social support. However, when individuals experience reduced self-awareness and focus more on fulfilling their assigned role within a group, it can lead to harmful or unethical behaviors.
Pros of deindividuation:
- Enhanced social bonding: In some situations, deindividuation can promote a sense of unity and camaraderie among group members. When individuals feel like part of a collective whole, it can lead to stronger social bonds and a sense of belonging.
- Collective action: Deindividuation can facilitate collective action, making it easier for groups to come together and work toward a common goal. This can be particularly useful in movements for social change and activism.
- Reduced inhibition: Deindividuation may lead to a reduction in social inhibitions, allowing individuals to express themselves more freely. This can be beneficial in creative and expressive contexts, such as artistic performances or sports events.
Cons of deindividuation:
- Loss of accountability: One of the main drawbacks of deindividuation is the diminished sense of personal responsibility. When people feel anonymous in a crowd, they may be more likely to engage in destructive or antisocial behaviors without considering the consequences.
- Negative behaviors: Deindividuation can lead to negative behaviors that individuals would typically avoid. This behavior could include acts of violence, vandalism, and other forms of misconduct in group settings.
- Mob mentality: Deindividuation can foster a "mob mentality," where individuals lose their moral compass and blindly follow the actions of the group, even if those actions are harmful or unethical.
- Reduced critical thinking: In a deindividuated state, individuals may be less likely to engage in critical thinking or question the group's decisions. Reduced critical thinking can lead to poor decision-making and a lack of individual judgment.
Whether deindividuation is seen as good or bad depends on the context and the specific outcomes it produces. In some cases, deindividuation can lead to positive social connections and collective action, while in others, it can result in negative behaviors and a loss of individual responsibility. We should strive for a balance between group cohesion and individual expression to promote healthy social dynamics and prevent harmful behaviors.
What is the difference between deindividuation and conformity?
Deindividuation and conformity are two distinct processes that can occur within group settings. While both involve individuals adapting their behavior to align with the group, they have different underlying mechanisms and outcomes.
Conformity refers to the act of changing one's behavior to match that of others in a group. This change can occur due to real or perceived pressure from the group, and individuals may conform to fit in or avoid social rejection. Conformity is often a conscious decision, and individuals may still maintain their sense of self while conforming.
On the other hand, deindividuation involves individuals losing their sense of individual identity and becoming part of a group or crowd. This loss of self-awareness can lead to reduced personal responsibility and an increased focus on the collective identity rather than individual beliefs. Deindividuation is often an unconscious process that occurs in situations where individuals feel anonymous or have a diminished sense of self.
What is deindividuation in psychology today?
Today, deindividuation is a prominent concept in social psychology, referring to the loss of self-awareness and individual identity that can occur within group settings. It is often studied in the context of crowd behavior, mob mentality, and group dynamics. Politics and social media have also brought attention to the concept of deindividuation, as anonymous online interactions can lead to decreased accountability and increased conformity within virtual communities.
Ongoing research in psychology has explored the causes and consequences of deindividuation, as well as ways to mitigate its negative effects. As psychologists continue to explore the complexities of human behavior within group settings, understanding deindividuation remains crucial in promoting healthy social interactions and preventing counterproductive group behaviors.
- Previous Article
- Next Article