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Means a loss of personal identity and personal responsibility.

Hogg and Vaughan

Deindividualisation is a process whereby people lose their sense of socialised individual identity and engage in unsocialised, often anti-social, behaviour.


Distinguishes between individuated behaviour (which conforms to social norms and acceptable behaviour) and deindividuated behaviour (which is unsocialised and based on more primitive urges).

Reduced public self-awareness

We are less likely to be identified by others.

Reduced private self-awareness

People become less successful at monitoring their own behaviour and judging whether or not their behaviour is appropriate.

Deiner - 4 types of self-awareness

Poor self monitoring of behaviour
Reduced need for social approval
Reduced inhibitions
Reduced rational thinking
These can explain why deindividuation can lead to aggression, people are anonymous (so less likely to be caught) and have lost their usual social and moral inhibitions.

Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Study

Zimbardo explained his classic Stanford prison study findings in terms of deindividuation as a result of the social situation. The students playing the part of the prison guards wore uniform and mirror sunglasses so their personal identity was partly hidden - deindividuated. All participants were psychologically stable and were decent members of the community but most acted very unpleasantly and/or aggressively when in the role of the guard.

Evaluation of Zimbardo's prison study

- Lacks ecological validity - Wasn't a real prison
- Demand characteristics - May have thought they had to act aggressive

Zimbardo's further study

Zimbardo used female students to give electrical shocks (which were fake) to other female students who were confederates. Some of the participants wore their own clothes and ID labels, others wore enveloping white costumes and hoods which effectively cloaked them. The latter gave much higher levels of shocks than the former, which could have been because their identities were hidden and were therefore deindividuated.

Evaluation of Zimbardo's further study

- The women wore hoods that made them look like the Klu Klux Klan so were seen as aggressive and racist
- Demand characteristics as they may have thought they had to adopt an aggressive role
- Lacks ecological validity as were not in their natural environment

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