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Crowd behaviour in CBRN incidents


Explaining social behaviour in emergencies ... Selfish, competitive behaviour was rare ... If panic is wrong and crowd behaviour is social and meaningful ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Crowd behaviour in CBRN incidents

Crowd behaviour in CBRN incidents
  • John Drury
  • Department of Psychology
  • Sussex University
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chris Cocking (London Metropolitan University,
  • Steve Reicher (University of St Andrews, UK)
  • The research was made possible by a grant from
    the Economic and Social Research Council
  • Ref. no RES-000-23-0446.

  • Early models of mass reactions to emergencies
    crowd panic
  • Practical implications and problems
  • Explaining social behaviour in emergencies
  • London bombs (7/7) study
  • Theoretical and practical implications

Early models of mass reactions to emergencies
crowd panic
  • In the face of threat
  • Instinct overwhelms socialization
  • Emotions outweigh reasoning
  • Rumours and sentiments spread uncritically
    through contagion
  • Reactions are disproportionate to the danger
  • Competitive and selfish behaviours predominate
  • Ineffective escape

Practical implications of crowd panic
  • Emphasis on physical aspects of public space
  • Communication less important

Empirical problems for crowd panic
  • Panic is actually rare (Brown, 1965 Johnson,
    1988 Keating, 1982 Quarantelli, 1960).
  • Lack of crowd panic (examples)
  • atomic bombing of Japan during World War II
    (Janis, 1951)
  • Kings Cross Underground fire of 1987 (Donald
    Canter, 1990)
  • 9/11 World Trade Center disaster (Blake, Galea,
    Westeng, Dixon, 2004)
  • The problem is often people not taking the
    emergency seriously rather than taking it too

Explaining social behaviour in crowds in
  • Order and co-operation are common.
  • e.g. Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, 1977
  • Theories of social behaviour
  • Normative approaches norms, social roles guide
  • Affiliation people seek the familiar, stay in
    given groups

Explaining the extent of co-operation
  • People also help strangers
  • Self-categorization theory
  • shared fate creates sense of we-ness (shared
  • people care for and help others in the crowd in
    an emergency because they cognitively group them
    with self

London bombs (7/7) study
  • Secondary data
  • (i) Contemporaneous interviews with survivors
    and witnesses, from 141 different articles in 10
    different national daily newspapers.
  • (ii) 114 detailed personal accounts of survivors
    (web, London Assembly enquiry, books or
    retrospective newspaper features.
  • Primary data
  • 12 face-to-face interviews plus seven e-mail
  • data from at least 145 people, most of whom
    (90) were actually caught up in the explosions

Our research questions
  • Was there crowd panic (i.e. predominance of
    personally selfish behaviours)?
  • How common was help?
  • How far was any help explicable in terms of
    shared identity?

Was there crowd panic?
  • There was talk of panic
  • 57 eye-witness accounts used the term panic.
  • 20 eye-witness accounts explicitly denied that
    there was panic
  • BUT
  • 37 accounts referred to calm amongst those
    affected by the bombs
  • 58 to an orderly evacuation.

How common was help?
  • In the personal accounts
  • 42 people reported helping others
  • 29 reported being helped by others
  • 50 reported witnessing others affected by the
    explosions helping others
  • this Australian guy was handing his water to all
    of us to make sure we were all right I I was
    coughing quite heavily from smoke inhalation and
    so Id got a bit of a cold anyway which
    aggravated it and also I mean he was really
    helpful but when the initial blast happened I was
    sat next to an elderly lady a middle aged lady
    and I just said to her are you all right?
    (Edgware Road)

  • Selfish, competitive behaviour was rare
  • Personal accounts only four cases of people's
    behaviour that could be described as personally
    selfish, and six cases where the speaker
    suggested that another victim behaved selfishly
    to them or to someone else.

Explaining help Affiliation?
  • Most of the people affected were amongst
  • nearly 60 people in the personal accounts
    reported being amongst people they didnt know
    (including 48 people who were actually on the
    trains or bus that exploded)
  • only eight reported being with family or friends
    at the time of the explosion.

Explaining helpShared fate, shared identity
  • There was a widespread fear of danger or death
    through secondary explosions or the tunnel
  • Secondary data Occasional references to unity
    and shared fate, e.g. Blitz spirit
  • BUT no references to dis-unity either
  • Interview data
  • Nine out of twelve were explicit that there was a
    strong sense of unity in the crowd
  • References to unity were not only typical but
    also spontaneous and elaborate/detailed
    empathy, unity, together, similarity,
    affinity, part of a group, you thought
    these people knew each other, vague solidity,
    warmness, teamness, everybody, didnt
    matter what colour or nationality.

Explaining helpEveryday norms?
  • Is the unity and helping described different from
    social relations normally on the trains and just
    before the bomb?
  • CC can you say how much unity there was on a
    scale of 1-10
  • LB1 Id say it was very high Id say it was 7 or
    8 out of 10
  • CC ok and comparing to before the blast happened
    what do you think the unity was like before
  • LB1 Id say very low- 3 out of 10 I mean you
    dont really think about unity in a normal train
    journey, it just doesnt happen you just want to
    get from A to B, get a seat maybe
  • Therefore not simply everyday norms

Theoretical conclusions
  • CBRN versus other kinds of emergencies? to the
    extent that the attack puts people all in the
    same boat, the psychological effects will the
  • Hyams, Murphy Wessely (2002) Responding to
    chemical, biological or nuclear terrorism The
    indirect and long-term health effects may present
    the greatest challenge. Journal of Health
    Politics, Policy and Law, 27, 273-291.
  • Shared social identity is the psychological basis
    for the concept of resilience (collective
    self-help, resources and recovery in disasters)

Practical implications
  • If panic is wrong and crowd behaviour is social
    and meaningful
  • More emphasis on communicating with the crowd and
    less on the crowd as a physical entity (exit
  • If there is a willingness to help among strangers
  • The emergency services need to allow and cater
    for peoples willingness to help each other.
  • Treat the public as an ally
  • (Cf. Glass Schoch-Spana (2002). Bioterrorism
    and the people How to vaccinate a city against
    panic. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 34,