By weekday they wear formal business attire, carefully see to their social obligations with finess and say please and thank you to the waiters who know them by first name and serve them meals at their favorite restaurants. On game day however, they paint their faces and other unmentionable body parts to match the zany colors of “their” favorite team, they wear funny foam hats, masks or costume garb shaped like mascots or icons, they shout rowdy chants at the top of their lungs, and swear profanities they would otherwise never use at the presiding game officials.
The differences in people’s personalities are like day and night when it comes to football hooligans. What on earth are these otherwise civilized and mostly sane people thinking? The phenomena deindividuation is quite an interesting psychological state of transformation among this crowd. Let us see how it happens, hypothetically speaking of course. First, the team colors. Oh yes, you must forget about the classy pinstriped black business suit and choose the more appropriate colors to represent your favorite team.
By doing so, you make yourself a part of a larger whole. You personally associate yourself now with that team and its larger group of fans. On a normal day, walking down the street you would look like a bloody fool dressed like this. But on game day, this self decoration is a symbol of pride and belonging. Not to mention the fact that you fit in with all the other painted fools around you. You have taken the first step in diminishing your self awareness, welcome to the crowd.
Next the group chant, you’ll want to scream something catchy, with a rhyme preferably, so that everyone can remember it long enough to repeat it again and again. Your loud and obnoxious shouts among the loud and even more obnoxious shouts of others can barely be heard, but you add to the roar of the group and add to team spirit of course! You and the shouts of your comrades will surely dissuade the opponents and win the game, Hurrah! You have given up your self restraint and are now responding to the situation and around you.
Congratulations, you have now journeyed well on your way to being deindividuated. Lastly, you swear at the referees or some other presiding game official calling them four letter words that would make your grandmother drag you into the bathroom and wash out your mouth with soap for at least a few hours. Yet everyone else around is doing the same or much worse, so what harm could a few vulgar words from you do, right? Besides it is not like anyone is listening just to you. There are hundreds of people around, who agree with you; or do you agree with them?
Oh, what’s the difference you all agree together right? Bingo. Welcome to the world of deindividuation where your otherwise restrained, considerate and more appropriate self along with your personal values have vanished into the abyss. You now are part of the rowdy crowd, rather than an individual who wears a business suit and practices impeccable social manners. The deindividuation is complete! Hypothetically and with humor, this analysis of deindividuation touches lightly upon the subject of some of the things that happen to people who join into a crowd.
However, the social phenomenon is not always as playful or joyous as our previous review would seem. There can be riots, fights, and serious violence and injuries caused by the deindividuation of ourselves when we join in a crowd. The loss of self awareness and the ability of a crowd to make us feel as if we fit or blend in can be a dangerous combination, as depicted tragically by such things as lynch mobs or riot crowds. Even football hooligans have been guilty numerous times of starting fights before, after and during a sporting event.