Clinically Speaking is a blog that will allow anyone to learn about Social Work, case presentations in psychotherapy, and the relationship of pop culture in psychology. Come one...come all!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do protesters and underdogs share the same psychological qaulities?

In another life, I am secretly a nerd(depends on who you ask, the wife says its not in another life, its the present life). I like to add some street cred to my nerdiness by subscribing to a fantastic magazine called Wired. In this month's issue of Wired, the cover story is titled "#Riot: Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts—Coming to a City Near You". The bulk of the article is to depict that in today's times you don't need to go door to door with your pamphlet saying "Give peace a chance join us at the park for a peace rally, man" like it was in the 60's, 70's or even 80's. With the emergence of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and fast text messaging like Blackberry Messenger aka BBM. You can organize a rally, protest or as the article refers it to a "mob" just by posting a time, place, date, and a reason. The "mobs" in recent months have become less peaceful and more violent than ever before. Why? Why have they become violent?

Clifford Stott, senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Liverpool, points out that "Based on a set of ideas that he and other social psychologists call ESIM (Elaborated Social Identity Model)." Which means that "crowds form what are essentially shared identities, which evolve as the situation changes". As a mob or protest becomes larger in numbers so does the intensity of the cause and the mood. Gives new meaning to strength in numbers doesn't it?

Later in the article, Stott gives two reasons for crowds potentiality for violence. The first, legitimacy "in combustible situations, the shared identity of a crowd is really about legitimacy, since individuals usually start out with different attitudes toward the police but then are steered toward greater unanimity by what they see and hear." The second, power,"the perception within a crowd that it has the ability to do what it wants, to take to the streets without fear of punishment." I read on and finished the article and that was that.

As anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a very big New York Giant fan(during a game I broke one of my daughters dolls...its was last years phili/giant game), I was pumped and nervous for the game yet it was 5 hours later, so I sat down at the kitchen table and happen to open a news article from Newsday called "Being the underdog has its advantages". I started reading about what the underdog means for teams, not from a historical standpoint who have nothing to lose and end up winning, but rather much to my surprise and delight, from a psychological and physiological outlook. According to Dr. Jack Bowman of says "when you engage the underdog position, it automatically gives you a psychological and physiological advantage...these are some very powerful psychological effects that they're engaging here. This is stuff that actually gets the job done." Dr. Bowman goes on to say that "When you are in the underdog position, it activates a perceived lack of pressure...studies show underdogs produce a different type of hormone that gives them a "positive energy" as opposed to anxiety-causing adrenaline." Article later talks about the coach and others in history played the underdog card perfectly and you cannot self-proclaim yourself "underdog".

After finishing this article in Newsday and the previous article in Wired, I think one could make the correlation between the psychology of "mobs" and "underdogs". As mentioned above mobs rely on shared identities which evolve as the situation changes and power of the crowd. If you take a look at underdogs in sports, teams (in general) have a shared identity, but a team that is the underdog evolves(when they are not picked to win) which gives them power or "positive energy" to often achieve the unlikely. Furthermore, I don't think it is a stretch to say that the "having nothing to lose" mentality is consistent with the mob mentality of acting "without fear of punishment".

Whether you agree with mobs, or the idea of an underdog. One overall constant remains, there is obvious strength in numbers, for better or worse. Goals can be achieved more efficiently when people work together. As cliche as it sounds the idea of "two heads are better than one" are evident in various outlets in the social construct from mobs to underdogs.

As a great team once said "Ducks fly together"

Last post, the link didn't work. Lets hope these links work. For the full articles click on the links below.

Sorry there was no post yesterday. I hope this makes up for it!

Have a great day!

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