UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Experimental Psychology Seminar - Beyond contagion? Shared identity as boundary condition and mechanism in behavioural transmission

29 November 2016, 4:00 pm–5:00 pm

Event Information


26 Bedford Way (WC1H 0AP), Room 305

Speaker: Dr John Drury, School of Psychology, University of Sussex

‘Contagion’ is the dominant explanatory concept for behavioural transmission and spread. It has been applied to a range of phenomena, ranging from emotions, simple responses such as yawning, to complex social processes, such as financial market behaviour. In the social sciences, one of the first usages was in the explanation of rioting, and this is where it if often found today. Its distinctive prediction is that exposure alone is sufficient for uncritical and indiscriminate influence to occur. By contrast, recent research on both crowd behaviour and on emotional transmission suggests group boundaries to influence, since social identity is the mechanism of influence. In this talk, I describe some preliminary evidence testing these competing hypotheses. In one experiment, participants (n = 75) were exposed to an aggressive crowd noise in three conditions: ingroup in relation to the crowd, outgroup in relation to the crowd, or no groups. On both explicit and reaction-time (IAT) measures, those in the outgroup condition were most likely to reject aggression. Further in line with the social identity hypothesis, and against the contagion hypothesis, self-relevance of source was found to mediate this effect, and identity strength was found to moderate it. The presentation concludes with a discussion of how far these social identity principles might apply to other transmission phenomena.

Time: 4pm, 29 November 2016

Venue: Room 305, 26 Bedford Way, WC1H 0AP