Of concern to some of the early social psychologists, such as Gustave Le Bon and Gabriel Tarde (who suggested the origins of crowds in both herd instincts and mass imitation), sociological research on crowds is now part of the study of collective behaviour . Crowds usually involve large numbers of people, in close proximity, with a common concern. They may be focused and instrumental, having a clear goal, such as attending a rally; or they may be expressive, where the group aims to produce its own emotional or expressive satisfaction, as for example in the case of a dancing crowd at a carnival. This line is not always easy to draw, as can be seen in the case of riots : some have argued that riots are expressive and purely emotional, an outburst of senseless rage and destruction; others have suggested riots are instrumental, being either a political statement, or a criminal act of theft and destruction. These distinctions are not always clear. Others, no less ambiguous, concern the differences between focused crowds (having a specific object or goal), and diffuse crowds (uncertain, suggestible, and in which milling and rumour is common). An important series of such clarifications may be found in Ralph H. Turner and Lewis M. Killian's Collective Behaviour (1957). See also emergent norms.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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