Deindividuation is the loss of identity or self-awareness, usually in a group setting.
What Is Deindividuation?
Normally, most people have a general sense of individuality and self-awareness that makes it easier to monitor their interactions with others, judge their behavior according to their values, and recognize themselves as separate entities from other people. Social psychologists, who study individual behavior in group settings, developed the concept of deindividuation to describe a common phenomenon in some groups.
Deindividuation occurs when a person’s identity with a group overrides his or her own identity and self-awareness. It can lead to a mob mentality because deindividuation tends to prevent critical thinking and dissent. People in groups often feel less individual responsibility for their behavior, and may feel that they will be able to act with more anonymity. They may also identify so strongly with a group that their individual feelings matter less. Religious settings, sports games, political events, and large organizations such as militaries can all cause members to deindividuate. Peer pressure to go along with groupthink may also play a role in deindividuation.
Effects of Deindividuation
When a person deindividuates within a non-destructive group, the benefits can be positive and may include a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Deindividuation can be extremely emotional, and some people feel exhilarated when they return to a sense of self-awareness. However, deindividuation can also contribute to destructive group behavior. Political oppression, mass violence, riots, and bullying can all stem from deindividuation.
Anyone is susceptible to deindividuation, but a strong desire to belong and a strong group identity can increase a person’s likelihood of deindividuation. A highly religious person, for example, is much more likely to deindividuate in a religious setting than an avowed atheist. Highly stimulating groups—such as sports games with lots of action or military missions—can increase the likelihood of deindividuation, and some research indicates that large groups are more likely to cause members to deindividuate.
- Deindividuation. (n.d.). ChangingMinds.org. Retrieved from http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/deindividuation.htm
- Deindividuation. (n.d.). Untangling the Web. Retrieved from http://untanglingtheweb.tumblr.com/post/2132662100/deindividuation-theory-is-a-social-psychological
Last Updated: 08-4-2015