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Joining a crowd transforms us psychologically, with serious health implications

04 January 2017

Mass gatherings of people can provide the backdrop to outbreaks of communicable diseases, but does the psychology of the crowd contribute to this phenomenon?

Glastonbury 1997, the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and the pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2008 are all major gatherings of people that have provided the conditions for an outbreak of an infectious disease, with two British psychologists now suggesting that the psychological transformation experienced by a participant in a large crowd is crucial to understanding this medical phenomenon.

Joining a crowd changes a person's behaviour, and this can have both positive and negative impacts upon the health of attendees when that crowd have joined together for a specific purpose, whether that is a rock concert, a sporting event or a religious gathering.

Those who join a crowd for this purpose give up their individual identity to adopt the norms and values of the group, which can lead to people exposing themselves to situations that they would ordinarily avoid and may be harmful to their health.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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