There are several different psychological and sociological theories that explain the behavior of a crowd. A crowd has so many people, and yet all the individuals behave the same way, that is to say, the crowd has collective behavior.
Contagion theory and convergence theory are two such theories that explain the collective behavior of crowds.
Contagion Theory vs Convergence Theory
The difference between contagion theory and convergence theory is that the contagion theory explains that an individual when present in a crowd behaves the same way as the rest of the crowd due to its hypnotic influence. On the other hand, the convergence theory explains that the behavior of a crowd is reflected in the behavior of the individual present in the crowd.
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The contagion theory mentions that a crowd has a hypnotic influence on smaller groups of people, and more specifically, individuals.
This further explains that when an individual joins a crowd, he or she gets affected by the hypnotic influence of that crowd. The hypnotic influence affects the individual to feel and behave in a certain way, which is the same as the behavior of the crowd.
The convergence theory explains why a crowd has a collective behavior and a similar thought perspective.
It further states that the collective behavior of a crowd is not because of any hypnotic influence, instead, the behavior is due to the behavior of the individuals that are part of the crowd.
|Parameters of comparison||Contagion theory||Convergence theory|
|Introduced by||Gustav Le Bon introduced the convergence theory.||J. E. Roeckelein introduced convergence theory.|
|Statement||An individual when present in the crowd behaves irrationally due to the hypnotic influence of the other people present in the crowd.||The behavior or attitude of a crowd can be determined by the behavior or attitude of the individual present in the crowd.|
|Meaning||In the contagion theory, the crowd exerts a hypnotic influence on the individual to behave in a certain way.||In the convergence theory, all the like-minded individuals form a crowd to share the same goal.|
|Affected by||The individual present in the crowd gets affected by the crowd.||The crowd gets affected by the individuals present in the crowd.|
|Behavior||The person behaves like the other individuals in the crowd.||The crowd behaves like the behavior of individuals.|
What is Contagion Theory?
In the year 1885, Gustav Le Bon published a book known as ‘The crowd’. As the name suggests, the book was about the psychology behind the functionality of a crowd, and the psychology behind the behavior of a crowd.
In this book, Gustav Le Bon introduced the contagion theory. However, at that time, the theory was not considered to be completely true or practical. It was just a rough estimation for the question of why a crowd behaves a certain way.
Therefore, the theory was further developed by two more people. Robert Park was the person who developed the theory after Gustav Le Bon. The theory introduced by Gustave Le Bon contained a lot of political aspects. However, the developed contagion theory by Robert Park was more rational and psychological.
The contagion theory was then finally developed by Herbert Blumer. He was a sociologist who gave the theory a more sociological aspect.
The final developed theory of contagion explained that when a person enters a crowd, his or her independent thoughts and feelings are eliminated by the hypnotic influence of the crowd.
As a result, the person tends to behave like the rest of the crowd to have a collective behavior.
What is Convergence Theory?
The convergence theory, as the name suggests, is a theory where people who are like-minded, or have a common goal come together and converge into a single group altogether which results in a crowd.
Thus, this is the reason behind the collective behavior of the crowd. The theory states that the behavior of a crowd is not something that emerges on its own, or due to any third factor.
Instead, the behavior of the crowd emerges from the like-mindedness, common goal, and other such attributes of the individuals.
When several different people who have the same goal come together and form a group, then they work together to achieve their goal, their behavior tends to be expressed in the same way, as a result, the crowd shows a collective behavior.
For example, a crowd that is protesting against something must have a goal. Their goal must be to have their demands fulfilled by the concerned authority.
However, the crowd chooses violence during the protest to get their demands fulfilled.
Then the reason why the crowd chose violence would not be because the idea of violence emerged from somewhere, instead, the reason behind that would be because the individuals of that group wanted to choose violence.
Main Differences Between Contagion Theory and Convergence Theory
- Contagion theory states that the collective behavior of the crowd is due to its hypnotic influence. On the other hand, convergence theory states that the collective behavior of the crowd is due to the individuals.
- Contagion theory states that individual behavior is driven by the crowd. On the contrary, convergence theory states that crowd behavior is driven by individuals.
- Contagion theory states that the crowd might not have like-minded people. Whereas, convergence theory states that the crowd had like-minded people.
- According to contagion theory, hypnotic influence is the cause for the collective behavior of the crowd. On the other hand, according to convergence theory, the like-mindedness of individuals is the cause of the collective behavior of the crowd.
- According to contagion theory, the crowd may not have a similar goal. On the contrary, according to convergence theory, the crowd has a similar goal.
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.