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Psychology of a Crowd: What Contributed to the Gang Rape of a 15-Year-Old Girl?

By HERWriter
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Many are still shocked over the gang rape of the 15-year-old girl at a Homecoming dance, though the act itself is not the worst part necessarily. It’s the fact that as many as 20 bystanders or participants were present and either didn’t do anything to stop the act or participated as a “mob.”

A few media outlets have attributed this to the “bystander effect,” “pluralistic ignorance,” “herd behavior” and “mob behavior,” “mob effect” or “mob mentality.” An article in the Monterey County Herald specifically talks about the psychological reasoning behind the monstrous incident.

According to a social psychology textbook, the bystander effect is “the tendency of a bystander to be less likely to help in an emergency if there are other onlookers present.” This bystander effect could lead to diffusion of responsibility, where each person thinks another person in the crowd is helping with the situation. Another phenomenon that can happen from the bystander effect is pluralistic ignorance, which is “the mistaken impression on the part of group members that, because no one else is acting concerned, there is no cause for alarm.”

In the case of the gang rape, some bystanders might have subconsciously figured another person was calling for help. However, it is hard to believe this, since it appears some of the bystanders came to watch or participate after receiving information that the gang rape was happening. Others might have been afraid to be a victim as well.

Those who participated in the gang rape may have been undergoing the phenomenon of mob mentality, where a group basically acts together without thinking clearly. Some writers’ outlets have attributed this animalistic behavior to those involved in the gang rape. For example, The Progressive Electorate, put a post up on its Web site about the gang rape and how it is discouraged with the lack of individual thinking in society. It posed the question: “What makes it so hard to go against the grain and stand up to injustice?”

On open.salon.com, there was a post about the same thing: mob mentality.

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