10 augustus 2011

Riot Psychology as read on Mind Hacks

In the coming weeks we can expect to see politicians and pundits lining up to give us their smash-and-grab clichés for the recent urban riots in the UK. They’ll undoubtedly give a warm welcome to our old friends economic decay, disengaged youth and opportunistic crime, and those of a more psychological persuasion might name drop ‘deindividuation’ – the process where we supposedly lose self-awareness and responsibility in large crowds.
This belies the fact that crowd behaviour is a complex area that is surprisingly poorly researched.
But what we do know about is the interaction between large crowds and the police and you could do much worse than check out the work of psychologist Clifford Stott who researches how crowds react to policing and what triggers violence.
In his 2009 report on the scientific evidence behind ‘Crowd Psychology and Public Order Policing,’ commissioned by the UK constabulary, he summarises what we know about public disorder and how the authorities can best manage it (you can download it as a pdf).

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