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What Is Contagion Theory?

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According to the social psychologist Gustave Le Bon, Contagion theory states that crowds exert a hypnotic influence over their members through collective suggestibility. According to this theory, people tend to give up their personal responsibility and surrender to the emotions of the crowd them. They feel shielded by the anonymity of the crowd and hence abandon responsibilities. A crowd may therefore stir up emotions, assuming a life of its own, and drive people into irrational behaviour. According to this theory whether the crowd is organized or spontaneous, they are bonded (hypnotism or imitation) together with charismatic figures. Le Bon was considered the founder of crowd psychology. Le Bon's The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind in 1895, influenced a lot of people which included Adolf Hitler. In fact his autobiography Mein Kampf mentions Le Bon's work.
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Another way of thinking around 'giving up personal responsibility' in crowd behaviour in a broader sense and really without mixing it with what is good and what is bad, just to try to find why crowd behaviour is so frequent is by looking at it as a way to avoid criticism, rather than escaping personal responsibility. Take for example going nude in the summer, or painting the house wild orange, there is no universally truth in these issues other than being sensivitve to other people's feelings.
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Still another aspect of crowd behaviour is to remain connected with other people or connect with new acquaintances. Going your own way always also means risk of isolation, something that is well known to be the greatest health hazard there is. For example a scientist deciding to make research in an area which the fellow scientists in his lab will find useless or uninteresting carries risk of having to handling things all alone, without anyone to discuss with.
 
This particular situation for this scientist leads us to another aspect of crowd behaviour. In human activities success is to a great extent dependent on cooperation and joint efforts. In order to find the necessary help or people to discuss with. To a certain extent you will have to conform to topics or activities that others will agree to interact in one or another way. Again deviating from the crowd can lead to isolation and hazards to the the health of the deviating individual.
 
In science there have been a whole lot of individuals going their own way giving up social gratification and ending up in very difficult situation: Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei and others.
 
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So there is a coninuous balance between risks and moral when making choices in conformity and participating in crowd behaviours. We all participate in crowd behaviours in order to gain and not to lose in terms of benifits in life - social possibilities or position. Crowd behaviour is a lot stronger force than truth in human social life. That is why religions tend to remain regionally distributed rather than the same persentages all over the globe, the same goes for politics, moral, folk music ..

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