Rise above the crowd

Interview with Olena Dantseva: Rise above the crowd

Protests and demonstrations have now become a sign of our times. Significant number of people participate in protest actions. The high level of social tension is also stated by the results of nationwide sociological surveys those were held by the Center of Social and Marketing Research "Sotsis" and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. According to the survey, almost 47% of respondents support the protest mood of citizens (26.8% answered that they fully support the protests, 20.9% - mostly support). We live in a time when the crowd as an independent subject comes to the political arena. What threats bears the crowd and how to protect yourselves during mass political actions? With these questions, we asked a political psychologist, the head of Department of development and implementation of social technologies in Promedia Consulting Olena Dantseva.

In terms of psychology how would you describe state of Ukrainian society? What are its main features?

The state which is now facing our society can be described as a situation of open political conflict that turns into its crisis phase. At the stage of intense crisis there is an dramatically increase of irrational behavior of people, which generate the so-called reaction of militant enthusiasm as a form of social protection. It involves actively opposing large society groups to the struggle for social and political values. At this stage of political tension a significant amount of psychopathic personalities on both sides become active. They transform to subjects of emotional infection between passive part of society that not yet involved in the protest action.

On emotional and cognitive levels for native supporters of militant enthusiasm an image of enemy becomes an foundation in which they see a threat to its existence. In this situation mental stress reaches its most extreme forms, a significant portion of society is experiencing a certain psychopathological state. This state is characterized by loss of feedback from reality, resulting in many people's minds distorted image of the world. The distorted perception of reality is greatly affected by suggestive influence of some politicians and media. Certain groups in society, many of whom are include sociopathic personality, demonstrate the inability to perceive and expose the critical analysis of information that does not confirm their own projections. Information contrary to their settings or ignored or considered incorrect. For such people, the political struggle is subjectively experienced as a confrontation between good and evil, light and darkness.

What people on barricades can do in this situation? How should they act when experiencing too strong feelings?

Firstly, everyone must realize that despite his or her own position in this conflict, they perceive events somewhat distorted. That if we are looking at each other with glasses with a distorted glass. The idea that we have biased perception of reality can restrain us from overly decisive and radical actions.

Secondly, there is a need to think critically, it is extremely difficult task in a situation where we are covered with the strongest emotions. Try to analyze a whole variety of information, not just the one that we like and with which we agree. In an emergency, everyone should try to think, analyze, summarize facts and perceive different views.

Describe the phenomenon of the crowd. What is it in terms of psychology? What can unite a lot of different people?

Human behavior in the crowd differs significantly from its behavior alone or in a small group of friends. In the crowd quite different mechanisms are triggered, and a person can behave in a such manner as he would never led himself in other situations. The crowd acts as a single organism with a single psyche, despite the difference in the age, intellectual, educational levels of people in a crowd. There is a reduction of intellectual level of people in a crowd. Level of crowd intelligence is always a notch below the average of representatives. Gustave Le Bon, who first began to study the psychology of mass behavior, believed that forty academicians, collected together, don't differ from forty water-carriers. The crowd dissolves a conscious person In it. Guided by the unconscious instincts, the individual gives himself to the primitive instincts. Crowd psychology inherent such trait as anonymity and deindividualization. The crowd erased personality traits of people disappearing personal uniqueness. Person, who becomes a part of the mass, doesn't feel responsibility for his or her own actions. This provokes an increase in violence, especially that accompanies aggressive actions of the crowd. This contributes to anonymity and irresponsibility of the individual in the crowd. One of the researchers of the phenomenon of the crowd S. Siegel spoke metaphorically about the irresponsibility of the crowd: "Microbe of evil spreads very easily in the crowd, while the microbe of kindness dies almost always without finding appropriate living conditions". Members of the crowd feel their undoubted rights, power and impunity. The presence of the enemy only rallying the crowd.

If the level of intelligence in the crowd decreases, the level of emotion become much higher than the average level of individual members. Passion in the crowd literally boil. And it isn't easy to satisfy them. The crowd sees only emotionally charged information. On the basis of emotional arousal natural behaviors such as aggression or panic appear. Psychological mechanisms of mass are infection, imitation, suggestion, and only in some cases, a conviction.

Is it difficult to manage and manipulate the crowd? Can large number of people act cohesively without strong leaders?

Paradoxical thing, but the crowd is much easier to manage than individuals. And the bigger the crowd, the easier process of its control. The crowd can be managed by leaders or act without them. Mechanisms of mass behavior can be used by any politician with different views. The leader can appears as the result of natural selection and can relatively easy encourage the crowd to action.

The crowd is an easy transformed community, both on the basis of natural actions and manipulated by the leader. It can quickly change their state from a simple occasional crowd, managed just with a simple curiosity, to panic or aggressive forms.

And how to protect people's lives and health in the crowd? Does rules to follow exist?

Well, the first rule - not to join the crowd and avoid it in any circumstances. I know that in a situation of open political conflict and increased political activity, it is not easy to follow these tips. Everyone has the right to express their civic position, attend protest meetings.

However, everyone should be clearly aware about the danger to themselves and their relatives. Even if you go on an organized meeting, always remember about personal safety. One of the most renowned experts in the study of spontaneous mass behavior Akop Nazaretan in his book advised “Do not go into the crowd without fee”. Of course, he did not mean paid titushki (armed gangs), in those days, this phenomenon was not known to science. He wanted to focus on the fact that we should not go into the crowd without the need and should stay away as far as possible. There is his related second advice: if you appeared in the crowd accidentally, imagine that you are at the work (ie, concentrate, do not lose your head, do not obey the emotional impact). Here is the his third advice - penetrating into the crowd, think about the way to get out of it. If you go to the place with a large concentration of people, the first thing you need to review are ins and outs. You should not all terrain features - niches, windows of buildings, cars - everything is where you can find refuge and safety. Avoid close proximity of the glass windows, fences, poles, trees - you can be simply crushed. Girls need to remember that places of protest actions are not places for meetings. Flowing hair, long scarves, high heels - can cost lives. You should not flaunt video and photo cameras.

If you captured by a crowd do not try to go against the stream in any case. If you leave your own things on the ground, do not try to raise them. If you fall on the ground, then group youself, take a fetal position, protect your head, and try to get up at any cost, even if you have to grab with the clothes or other people's stuff. Stay away from law enforcement and aggressive gangs. Avoid eye contact with them. Do not take aggressive postures. In the case of possible provocations (if stones, bottles are thrown from the crowd) law enforcement can act again crowd and you may suffer. It is irresponsible to bring kids to mass political actions. The main aim for a person in the crowd is resist to the total pressure and not to become an oil in the fire of political passions.