Mob mentality refers to the behavioral tendency of people (or other social animals) to act in unison with the group of which they are a part. This is an evolutionary adaptation that provides the mechanism for collective intelligence, but also explains how morally reprehensible consensus can form. Behaviors ranging from gang rapes and beatings to the extermination of an entire people group.
Human beings tend to exhibit very unique behaviors or habits once they’re in a group. Some sociologists call it “herd behavior” but it is more often described as “mob mentality.” Interestingly, it’s not just humans that behave that way. Flocks of birds and herds of animals have all exhibited similar behavior.
The word “mob” has many negative connotations. One imagines a wild and aggressive crowd, feeding on each other’s panic (hence the other alternative term “crowd hysteria”). Certainly, sociologists and psychologists studying mob mentality have often focused on things like violent demonstrations or even the madness that can often ensue in evacuations, stampedes and crisis situations. There are also famous cases of people growing violent in something as mundane as a shoe sale. Thus, mob mentality has often become attached to the idea of human selfishness and competitiveness. Sometimes it is linked to desperation, such as people who will fight tooth and nail to access relief supplies, or rioting in the streets because of total terror.
However, mob mentality goes far beyond the study of “crazy crowds.” It studies, for example, the difference when people are in small crowds or big crowds, and what these social scientists have found is that the behavior is subject to several influences. The information they gathered has been quite useful in creating safety strategies or even studying and predicting the stock market (i.e., the response of shareholders when viewing an erratic market shift). It has also been used to study political or cultural phenomena, such as the rise of Anti Semitism or the genocide in Rowanda, allowing governments and other organizations to take measures in preventing such kind of movements from occurring again.