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Collective Behavior, Social Movements, and Social Change


acting crowd

crowd that engages or is ready to engage in violent or destructive behavior

casual crowd

group of individuals who merely happen to be in the same place at the same time and have no group identity

collective behavior

relatively spontaneous behavior that follows from the formation of a group or crowd of people who react to a common influence in an ambiguous situation

conflict theory

theory that society is characterized by conflict between social groups. Groups with unequal power and competing interests compete for scarce resources.

contagion theory

theory that posits that crowds can have an effect on individuals, causing people to develop mob mentality and lose the ability to reason

conventional crowd

crowd composed of people gathered for a specific purpose, such as attending a concert or sporting event

convergence theory

theory of collective behavior that argues that crowd behavior is a reflection of the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that individuals bring to a crowd


social movement that forms in opposition to another social movement


temporary gathering of individuals, whether spontaneous or planned, who share a common focus

emergent norm theory

theory that holds that individual members of a crowd or group make their own decisions about behavior and that norms are created through others' acceptance or rejection of these behaviors

expressive crowd

group of people who gather primarily to participate in a collective experience and express emotions


interest or practice that is extremely popular for a very short time


interest or practice that is favored at any one time or place and is less limited in time than a trend or a fad

free rider

person who does not choose to invest resources such as time, money, or skills into a collective action because they will benefit regardless of their participation


approach that views society as a system of parts working together to maintain a social equilibrium

mass behavior

collective behavior in which large groups of people engage in similar behaviors without necessarily being in the same place

mass hysteria

hysteria that occurs when an event or idea that is potentially harmful causes widespread fear, inducing panicked reactions

mass society theory

theory that people join a movement not because of the movement's ideas but to satisfy a psychological need to belong to something larger than themselves

moral panic

widespread fear that a group or behavior threatens society, resulting in a hostile reaction toward individuals or groups considered to pose a threat

protest crowd

group of people who gather at a planned time and place to protest a social, cultural, economic, or political issue

relative deprivation theory

theory that focuses on oppressed groups who seek rights or opportunities already enjoyed by others in the society

resource mobilization theory

theory that social movements develop in response to the resources available to a group and the opportunities that exist for social change

social dilemma

situation that forces individuals to choose between their individual interest and the collective interest

social movement

social group with leadership, organization, and an ideological commitment to promote or resist social change

symbolic interactionism

view of social behavior that emphasizes subjective understanding and the interactions of the individual and society


behavioral practice that is popular throughout a society or community and may develop over time

value-added theory

theory of collective behavior that proposes that collective behavior occurs when several major factors are combined: awareness of an issue, social strain, generalized beliefs, precipitating factors, mobilization, and a lack of social control