Big groups gone bad

Aug 242004
Authors: Adrienne Hoenig

Rioting this past weekend has some people in the CSU community

wondering what went wrong.

Sociologists often link incidents such as these to collective,

or mob, behavior. This sort of behavior is usually characterized by

large groups of people spontaneously participating in activities

that violate dominant values.

“Individuals as individuals behave differently than when they

are together in groups,” said Prabha Unnitham, a sociology

professor at CSU.

Many CSU students are no strangers to this sort of group


“I can understand going along with the rest of the group,” said

Briana Phillips, a senior business management major. “I can’t

understand how it would get that bad.”

Ryan Phillips, a freshman business major, thinks some

individuals may lose their common sense in a situation with so many


“It’s like strength in numbers, but in the wrong direction,”

Phillips said. “When you’ve got more people doing something like

that you don’t think about getting in trouble.”

Sociology department Chair Lou Swanson said alcohol consumption

can play a large role in riot behavior as well.

“Lowered inhibitions associated with drunken behavior has got to

be a factor,” said Swanson, who is also sociology professor. “Once

you have alcohol involved in a large disorderly group, you’re

likely to have an interaction on multiple events.”

Unnithan agreed.

“I think in American society the idea is that alcohol is a

lubricant,” Unnithan said. “It allows you to say things and do

things you might not otherwise say or do.”

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