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Quote of the Day: Asimov on Mobs/Crowds

 

This subject has been discussed a lot around here lately. This conversation was between two robots, one of which could sense human emotions.

“I do not directly experience the possession of a human mind with all its complexities and contradictions, so I do not grasp the mechanisms by which they respond. But, apparently, crowds are more easily managed than individuals. It seems paradoxical. Much weight takes more effort to move than little weight. Much energy takes more effort to counter than little energy. Much distance takes longer to traverse than little distance. Why, then, should many people be easier to sway than few? You think like a human being, friend Daneel. Can you explain?”

Daneel said, “You yourself, friend Giskard, said that it was an autocatalytic effect, a matter of contagion. A single spark of flame may end by burning down a forest.”

Giskard paused and seemed deep in thought. Then he said “It is not reason that is contagious, but emotion. It may be, then, that the larger the crowd, the more easily they are swayed by emotion rather than by reason.”

“Since emotions are few and reasons are many, the behavior of a crowd can be more easily predicted than the behavior of one person can.”

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There are 7 comments.

  1. Thatcher

    I’ll disagree slightly that crowds are naturally swayed by emotion. You can go to a movie, church, or downtown to work and be focused on “logical” thoughts, not emotions. If an unnatural occurrence such as shooter pops up, many will react with emotion, but if some are prepared for “fight or flight,” they can defuse the disturbance. 

    The problem is that the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” is no longer supported.


    This conversation is an entry in our Quote of the Day Series. We have only 1 opening left on the April Schedule. If this reminds you of a quotation that is important to you, why not sign up today?

     

    • #1
    • April 16, 2018 at 3:24 am
    • 2 likes
  2. Member

    It is simply peer pressure, which is to say it is the social urge to belong and cooperate. The urge is more acute when the community is physical. And individualism is more difficult when self-expression is lost in noise and commotion.

    • #2
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:32 am
    • 2 likes
  3. Member

    Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. Here s mob was carrying out tradition but Jesús personalized the behavior, made it a matter of individual choice, reason individual morality not tradition. The economist in me makes it even simpler, a member of a mob faces s very low probability of paying a personal price for his behavior and the group also reduces guilt or knowledge that he is behaving badly. This is why Democrats are always using mob psychology and Republicans just flounder around instead of finding the agitators and imposing costs on them.

    • #3
    • April 16, 2018 at 7:08 am
    • 4 likes
  4. Member

    Man loves, men hate. While individual men and women can sustain feelings of love over a lifetime toward a parent or through decades toward a spouse, no significant group in human history has sustained an emotion that could honestly be characerized as love. Groups hate. And they hate well…Love is an introspective emotion, while hate is easily extroverted…We refuse to believe that the “civilized peoples of the Balkans could slaughter each other over an event that occurred over six hundred years ago. But they do. Hatred does not need a reason, only an excuse.

    –Ralph Peters

    • #4
    • April 16, 2018 at 7:32 am
    • 5 likes
  5. Thatcher

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Man loves, men hate. While individual men and women can sustain feelings of love over a lifetime toward a parent or through decades toward a spouse, no significant group in human history has sustained an emotion that could honestly be characerized as love. Groups hate. And they hate well…Love is an introspective emotion, while hate is easily extroverted…We refuse to believe that the “civilized peoples of the Balkans could slaughter each other over an event that occurred over six hundred years ago. But they do. Hatred does not need a reason, only an excuse.

    –Ralph Peters

    A great quote within a Quote of the Day.

     

    • #5
    • April 16, 2018 at 8:13 am
    • 1 like
  6. Member

    RushBabe49: “It is not reason that is contagious, but emotion. It may be, then, that the larger the crowd, the more easily they are swayed by emotion rather than by reason.”

    Yes, but I think crowds can be pretty unpredictable about how they will emotionally react. It’s easy to get them moving all together, but not necessarily in the direction you want them to go.

    • #6
    • April 16, 2018 at 10:15 am
    • 3 likes
  7. Coolidge

    Adam Smith expounded at length in The Theory of Moral Sentiments in providing examples of why people will either act in sympathy or antipathy – and to what relative degree – in response to behavior of others. It isn’t so much that people go along like sheep and are swayed by emotions. Their emotions are conditioned by years of becoming acculturated to societal expectations. Giskard, an otherwise brilliant though tragic robot, is likely speaking for the author I think, along the lines of ‘people are stupid and their emotions are easily swayed.’ But being able to engage a person’s genuine emotions on a subject by putting a proposal (e.g. political) is the key to winning support, something the Dems have been good at for years. Once you have one believer in the group, it becomes easier to influence others in the group to follow. But it doesn’t work like infection. An engaged vocal convert can become and effective persuader. Without engagement, most people can be pretty immune (resistant) to new ideas that don’t make sense. The Dems have been masters of engaging and motivating their sympathizers by engaging their emotions and in the process enlisting support even for ideas that don’t make sense. In this, they must choose their audience wisely.

    • #7
    • April 16, 2018 at 12:41 pm
    • 2 likes