Wow. You could teach a psychology class with this episode.
This week’s Tasogare Otome was a great example of the dangers of crowd psychology. Recalling my previous discourse on fear, this episode took the concept present from last week and turned it up to eleven. The fear of an individual is one thing, but what happens when a fear becomes a collective belief of a group? As this episode exemplified, the results can be quite horrifying. I actually remember reading about a movie with a similar occurance in the past, but unfortunately I don’t remember its name. In any case, the premise of the film was that a village believed that a woman was possessed by a demon, and thus the villagers ritualistically killed her.
Sounds fairly straight forward, but the twist is that the villagers themselves were the ones who were actually possessed. While the students in Tasogare Otome may not actually have been possessed, they were still compelled by an illogical fear to commit an attrocious act without questioning its morality. The main point, though, was the perspective of the victim wherein the group appears as a terrifying mob of monsters. I felt that this was very well illustrated in both cases, and also serves as a great example of the concept of crowd psychology.
I’m sure many of you are already familiar with crowd psychology, and even if you aren’t, the name itself suggests what it refers to. The term by itself is actually quite general and doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation; many historical events were driven by crowd psychology. Yet another obvious example of it is the infamous Anonymous, and here we see that the neutrality of the concept starts to get a little fuzzy. Of course, a group can collectively accomplish great feats that an individual alone cannot hope to do. However, the downside is that group actions may be more volatile and illogical than those of a single person.
How can such a seemingly contradictory statement be true? The important thing to realize is that with many more people, emotions can be very easily amplified. One person may very easily contain his/her anger, but with a group of ten for example, all it takes is for one of them to turn to violence and you now have a mob on your hands. The obvious question, then, is just how do the actions of one member of a group turn into an impetus for all the others? This can be explained when we consider another concept in psychology known as groupthink.
Generally, groupthink is used to refer to groups making stupid decisions because no one wants to disagree, but when you think about it, that definition isn’t too far removed from a mob forming an emotional equilibrium. This emotion may not necessarily have to be negative, as demonstrated by the many peaceful protests of the past, but it’s very easy for it to become that way. And of course, the circumstances of this episode of Tasogare Otome were extremely conducive to very negative emotions, so the actions of the students were not too surprising.
If a group is already inclined to base their actions on the beliefs of an individual perceived to be the “leader” and if the thoughts of said “leader” are negative, then it’s not too unthinkable that the group may turn into a violent one. Add on the propensity for the fear of the supernatural to throw out all logical thought, and you now have a very dangerous and volatile group that will do just about anything to achieve a common goal. If this means sacrificing the “leader” that started the whole thing, then so be it. So as you can see, no one is really safe from such a group.
Just how do you go about stopping them then? Again, I felt that Tasogare Otome did a great job of demonstrating this. The best way is to jolt them back to “reality”; expose the violent mob to a cheerful and bustling festival. There’s really no better way to remind them of morality and humanity for that matter. The “extreme” change in atmosphere will also very quickly dispell any air of fear or negativity in general. This often works because the group is still part of a larger one, which may not necessarily be in the same state as them. But of course, if everyone else was in fact in the same state as in the movie, you may be out of luck.