Dr. Andrea Bonior dives into the world of psychology.
THERE ARE MANY situations where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The civility of human beings in large crowds, however, is not one of them.
By now you’ve probably heard about the chaos that erupted in Manhattan during a casting call for “America’s Next Top Model.” Various stressors — a fight, a nearby overheating car, and (one presumes) the general tensions of close quarters and hours of sizing up each other’s eyeliner — contributed to a stampede, luckily killing no one, but leaving several people hospitalized and even more traumatized.
It’s a disturbing but long-observed tenet of human behavior that people in large groups act very differently than they do when they’re alone. Unfortunately, the behavior is almost always worse—ignoring people in need of help, letting panic get the best of you, aggressing — and logic often falls by the wayside. Anonymity, deindividuation, and contagion of strong emotions have all been proposed as reasons; it becomes all too easy to lose sight of our values, our beliefs, and our responsibilities.
Not to mention, once a stampede gets started, the physical momentum is nearly impossible to overcome.
Here’s hoping next time, the logistics teams involved will realize that when in close quarters, even beauty queens can get ugly.