Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Throughout history humans have been swept up in forms of behavior that follow neither logic, past experience, nor the established expectations of society. People have participated in riots, lynchings, social movements, fads, crazes, and a number of other unusual activities. Sociologists and criminologists use the rather loose term “collective behavior” for such activities. Collective behavior refers to relatively spontaneous, unstructured, and extrainstitutional behavior engaged in by large numbers of people responding to a common stimulus. “Extrainstitutional” simply means that behavior of this type deviates from the firmly placed, normative, institutionalized patterns of everyday life. Collective behavior belongs to the realm of action not governed by the everyday rules and expectations that normally shape social behavior. Collective behavior operates in situations where the clear-cut guidelines and enforcement of behavior are not provided by mainstream society. Human responses to relatively unstructured and ambiguous situations can appear to be rather emotional and unpredictable. ...