Identities and Collective Behaviour (PSYL10162)

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Identities and Collective Behaviour (PSYL10162)

Semester 1, Friday 11:10am-1:00pm

BPS core areas - Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology


What will be covered?

In this course, we will explore the reasons that people come together as a crowd and the processes that underlay collective behaviour. We will cover fundamental theories used in identity research, particularly the social identity approach, and how they can be used to understand collective behaviour based on empirical evidence using a range of methodologies. 
We will focus on a variety of crowd contexts to examine phenomena such as the emotional and relational effects that being in a crowd can have (e.g. in festivals and mass gatherings), norm creation and empowerment (e.g. in protests and riots), and social support and resilience in disasters (e.g. flooding and emergency evacuations). Throughout the course, we will assess current myths of collective behaviour such as irrational panic behaviour and mindless violence. Crucially, we will use research on collective behaviour as an analytic lens to measure the strengths and weaknesses of current identity theories. 

How will it be delivered?

The course will consist of lectures, seminars, and large and small group discussions and debates to fully engage with the course content. The assessments will focus on knowledge and understanding, writing skills, with a particular emphasis on critical evaluation and independent learning. We will use a combination of short quizzes and set discussion topics throughout the course to provide continual feedback in addition to the mid-term assessment.

Lecture recording policy: Lectures will be recorded

What skills will be gained?

Through this course, students will develop their critical evaluation skills, knowledge and understanding of core theories in social psychology, ability to analyse contrasting theories and empirical evidence, and communication skills in both verbal discussions and written assessments.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Understand and identify how collective behaviour is possible based on a social identity perspective.

2. Explain the relational, emotional, and cognitive influences of social identification and the implications these have for collective behaviour.

3. Summarise empirical literature, including methodology and results, and critically analyse the conclusions based on the research and broader literature.

4. Understand the dynamic aspects of collective behaviour, including how group norms can change, how certain behaviour can come to be perceived as (un)acceptable, and how social support can emerge.

5. Apply and assess knowledge from empirical research on collective behaviour to critique current theories in social psychology, and use empirical research as an analytic tool for theories.


30% Mid-term Coursework (submission deadline Thursday 31st October, 12.00 noon)

1000 word critical summary of a research article

70% Final Coursework (submission deadline Monday 16th December, 12.00 noon)

3000 word essay where students can choose 1 of 3 questions related to either explaining a contemporary event, creating a research proposal, or critically assessing the theories covered in the course.

Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes

All learning outcomes will feed into the essay assignments. The midterm essay will specifically focus on learning outcomes 1, 3 and 5. The final essay will draw from all learning outcomes.

Reading resources

Indicative reading:

Alnabulsi, H., Drury, J., & Templeton, A. (2018). Predicting collective behaviour at the Hajj: Place, space, and the virtuous cycle of cooperation. Philosophical Transactions B, 373 (17573).

Drury, J., Cocking, C., & Reicher, S. D. (2009a). Everyone for themselves? A comparative study of crowd solidarity among emergency survivors. British Journal of Social Psychology, 48(3), 487-506.

Drury, J., & Stott, C. (2011). Contextualising the crowd in contemporary social science. Contemporary Social Science, 6(3), 275-288.

Neville, F., & Reicher, S. (2011). The experience of collective participation: Shared identity, relatedness and emotionality. Contemporary Social Science, 6(3), 377-396.

Novelli, D., Drury, J., & Reicher, S. (2010). Come together: Two studies concerning the impact of group relations on personal space. The British Journal of Social Psychology, 49(2), 223–236.

Novelli, D., Drury, J., & Reicher, S., & Stott, C. (2013). Crowdedness mediates the effect of social identification on positive emotion in a crowd: A survey of two crowd events. PLoS ONE, 8(11), e78983.

Reicher, S. D. (1984). The St. Paul’s Riot: An explanation of the limits of crowd action in terms of a social identity model. European Journal of Social Psychology, 14(1), 1–21.

Reicher, S. (2011). Mass action and mundane reality: An argument for putting crowd analysis at the centre of the social sciences. Contemporary Social Science, 6(3), 433-449.


Resources list:

04/09/2019 - 1:40pm