Understand the ‘mob mentality’, a concept that helps explain the action of violent groups


The coup-like acts of violence seen this Sunday (8) against buildings and public property in Brasília were mass behavior caused by a social illness, not necessarily a psychic one.

The psychiatrists interviewed by Sheet explain that people change their behavior when they are, for example, in a violent and aggressive group, as we see in fights between organized football fans.

Psychiatrist Alexandre Valverde says that a person who wouldn’t necessarily have the courage to break a window ends up doing it when he sees others with the same attitude. The expert explains that the term has a name and is called “mob mentality”, when people tend to have similar behaviors when they are in a group because they feel that individual responsibility is less.

According to Valverde, the “herd mentality”, as it is also known, is characterized when people want to feel part of the group because they believe that they are all fighting for a common good.

The psychiatrist says that the protesters have these attitudes because they believe in a parallel reality.

“They are guided by false information and live in a fantasy world, which has a distorted reality, where they believe that we are going to have a communist coup and that the elections were rigged. They are people who do not have a critical sense”, says Valverde, who is a specialist behavior and mental illness.

“People want to feel part of the group, but they don’t realize that they are being manipulated by politicians and leaders who finance the acts. .

He says the same happened in the United States with the invasion of the Capitol in January 2021 after the defeat of Donald Trump. “They really believe in a conspiracy theory. The question is how to overcome such disinformation.”

The psychiatrist and professor at Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo) Aderbal Vieira Júnior says that more and more people doubt the information and prefer to have as reality what is sent on WhatsApp by a friend. “Many disbelieve the official information and prefer to believe in someone who has an affective bond that he sent in a group. We are seeing a stupidity, and this happens both among left-wing and right-wing radicals”, evaluates Vieira Júnior.

The teacher observes that social networks contribute to this. “We are tribal beings that have been evolving, adapting and always looking to belong. On social networks, we live in our bubbles to reaffirm what you believe in and so that you can feel special with that group. Those who participate in these protests believe that they are there to save the nation. They believe they are being revolutionaries, not vandals”, says the psychiatrist.

Vieira Júnior also states that more and more people need to find groups that think alike in order to feel belonging and feel special. “On social networks you see everyone doing well, after all, everyone shows success on the internet such as travel, restaurants. When you find a group that thinks like you, you feel less mediocre. In the case of ‘patriots’, they start to feel like they are heroes”, he says.

This radicalism, according to Valverde, caused family ties and friendships to be broken. “This will take a long time to change as they will need to understand that they have been manipulated and having that awareness may take time or never happen,” he says.

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