What is Mob Mentality?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The term “mob mentality” is used to refer to unique behavioral characteristics that emerge when people are in large groups. It is often used in a negative sense, because the term “mob” typically conjures up an image of an aggressive, chaotic group of people. Social psychologists who study group behavior also use terms such as “herd behavior,” "herd mentality" or “crowd hysteria” to describe similar behaviors. The study of mob mentality is used to analyze situations that range from problems during evacuations to public gatherings that turn violent.

Scientist infer models of human behavior from studies of animal flocks and herds.
Scientist infer models of human behavior from studies of animal flocks and herds.

Herd Behavior

The study of herd behavior considers groups of all animals, not just humans. People have been observing group behavior of flocks, herds, pods and other assortments of animals for centuries, but it was not until the early 20th century that observers started applying scientific theories about crowd behavior to humans. Several books published in the 1910s discussed mob mentality, along with various ways to minimize or control it.

It is thought that people behave aggressively during riots because individual responsibility is diminished.
It is thought that people behave aggressively during riots because individual responsibility is diminished.

One reason for herd behavior is that people and animals tend to do what others around them are doing. This usually is because those who join the group in the behavior figure that if several others are doing something, it must be worthwhile, or they would not be doing it. For example, people figure that a crowded restaurant must be serving good food, or it would not be as busy. In most cases, this thought process comes naturally or subconsciously, which is one reason why animals take part in herd behavior.

Peer pressure might influence someone to start smoking.
Peer pressure might influence someone to start smoking.

Herd Mentality

The term "herd mentality" is often used to something that involves more conscious thought than herd behavior. This type of mentality can be influenced by things such as peer pressure, conformity, the need for acceptance and the desire for a sense of belonging. These things often cause people who are in groups to behave in ways that are similar to others in the group. For example, a person might choose to listen to different music when in a group of friends than he or she would when alone, because the others might make disparaging remarks if another type of music is chosen. Another example might be a teenager who drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes because of peer pressure from his or her friends.

Individuals may engage in herd mentality and behavior to combat fears of being left behind.
Individuals may engage in herd mentality and behavior to combat fears of being left behind.

Mob Mentality

Other factors come into play when the term "mob mentality" is used to refer to something negative. Two of the main factors are the greater anonymity that exists within a group and the distribution of responsibility for the group's actions. These factors sometimes make a person believe that they can act a certain way within a group and not have the same consequences that the same actions would have if he or she acted alone. For example, if a person is in a group that is vandalizing a building, he or she might believe that there is less of a chance of getting caught than if he or she was acting alone, because it might be difficult to identify every person who was involved. He or she might also feel less guilt because other people also vandalized the property.

Another factor in mob mentality is the sense of confusion or even panic that can exist in a large group. An example of this can be seen when people in crowds suddenly begin rushing in one direction. Although many people in the group might not know why this is happening, they see the urgency in the group and begin rushing in that direction, too. In extreme cases, the urgency and panic increases, creating a sort of crowd hysteria, and some people might even get trampled as a great number of people try to move in the same direction as quickly as possible. Even for something as seemingly innocent as a department store sale, a mob mentality might be evident as dozens of shoppers rush toward the sale items, push each other out of the way and fight over the items.

A mob mentality may emerge at a music festival where attendees already have a shared interest.
A mob mentality may emerge at a music festival where attendees already have a shared interest.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Mob mentality is all over social media and is usually negative no matter what side it's on.




I'm doing an oral presentation on mob mentality in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Lord of the Flies." However, I have not yet developed a thesis. Any advice on what my argument should be and how I can support it? Also, how would I make a connection for mob mentality between the books?


I am dealing with my young male son who is 19 and how does this mentality work within the family unit? I am a single mother and have four grown kids, two of whom won't talk to me for different reasons, and my 19 year old would rather listen to other mothers who seem to have a lot of people on her side and pulling for her. He agrees with her and so when I speak truth or logic and the other mother does not agree, he will say something like, see mom, you're wrong, when in all reality, I am more right than wrong. I could say the sky is blue but if she said the sky is purple and others in her corner agree with her, he would say see mom she is right because everyone agrees.

So how does this mentality play a part in young people who see a full family, who seem to be happy and healthy and have it all together and the mother tries to influence my child to transfer loyalties to her so that she can feel like his saviour or hero? It's a "if your mother won't love you I will" kind of thing, but when the chips are down, she will be there for her own rather then mine, and then I am needed.


just me thinking on a general psychological view point. I'd compare mob mentality "monkey see monkey do," whether it's real or not, beneficial or detrimental, positive or negative, doesn't really matter.

In "mob mentality," what matters is the "strength in numbers". The proof is on the "following" it has.

Numbers hold a factual perspective to it, hence the phrase "humans lie, numbers don't". The consequences of the actions preformed under mob mentality, are largely overlooked, due to the sense of "union" being the driving force to the action.

At the end of the day, humans just want to feel connected or a part of something. we are social creatures by nature. Mob mentality is natural.


For clarification: In comments number 5 and 6 above, the "mob behavior" referred to is not meant to imply violence.


In an institutional environment what are the antagonists of mob behavior?


Please discuss the similarities and differences of "mob behavior" between the citizens of a self-governing society and the residents of a facility which have been diagnosed with a "mild" mental illness or substance abuse issues.


Mob mentality isn't, by definition, necessarily a negative group set of behaviors, it's really just primal instinctive actions, carried out as mechanism dedicated towards the good of a set group. These instinctive actions are oftentimes deemed negative by modern societies standards.


Could this same mob mentality or mob behavior be a factor on discussion forums? I have seen otherwise intelligent people on a few sites feed off each others' anger and frustration. It really becomes quite ugly. I'm thinking since there is a great deal of anonymity that people feel safe in their attacks against other posters. Is this a growing area, or am I just new to it? I am astounded by some of the things people say and do which riles up the others.


Who has the most mob mentality in life, teens or adults?


Hello! I want to ask about the exact difference between "mob mentality" and "herd behavior." By the way, do they have to be negative (even lead to violence?) or just that they often turn into negative in most time?

Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you for your help.

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