Collective mental state

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Collective mental state is generally a literary or legal term, mostly used in sociology and philosophy (in addition to its singular use in psychiatry and psychology), to refer to the condition of someone's being-state when around others. An assessment of a collective mental state includes a description of thought processes, memory, emotions, mood, cognitive state, and energy levels, including the meta overlay of interactions between individuals.


A collective mental state is both distinct from and contains other mental states of self-aware individuals.[1][2][3] The collective mental state forms the basis for individual reflection, juxtaposed with the collective state, that leads to realizations about emotions, states of being, and individuality.[4][5] The collective mental state is made of conscious minds and may therefore be a more complex version of something like a stampede, which is itself caused by sentinel animals through imitation.[6][7] Collective mental states may be simulated through the use of a performer and audience; stand-up comedy desires to have a group of people collectively, simultaneously feel one thing: laughter.[14]


When a mental state is shared by a large proportion of the members of a group or society, it can be called a collective mental state. Gustave Le Bon proposed that mental states are passed by contagion, while Sigmund Freud wrote of war fever in his work Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1922), a perfect example of the collective mental state. Franz Borkenau wrote of collective madness, while many writers have discussed collective depression. Psychosis can be passed from one individual to another as induced psychosis or folie à deux, but rarely involves more than two people. When the mental state involves a large population, it is more appropriate to use plain English rather than psychiatric or psychological terminology.

Instances of collective mental states[edit]

A positive example of a collective mental state would be at a rave or music festival. People come together through music and may feel content or relaxed, even though they may be surrounded by strangers in a loud, stimulating environment.[18] On the other hand, in a dangerous situation, people can experience high levels of fear and anxiety if they are in a group of people that is panicking. An example of this is when a large group try to get out of a building and the individuals at the front are crushed against the doors by the weight of the people behind them.

A type of angry collective state is often referred to as mob mentality. The members of the group feed off of each other's anger and the collective mental state can become very aggressive, as part of the experience is a reduced sense of responsibility for each individual.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Durkheim, Émile (1979) [1951]. "Imitation". Suicide: A Study in Sociology [Étude de sociologie]. Translated by Spaulding, John A.; Simpson, George. New York, NY: THE FREE PRESS. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-684-83632-4. One should say creation rather than imitation, since this combination of forces results in something new…There is a penetration, a fusion of a number of states within another, distinct from them: that is the collective state.
  2. ^ Blumer, Herbert (1998) [1969]. "Society as Symbolic Interaction". Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. p. 83, 84. ISBN 978-0-520-05676-3. Under the perspective of symbolic interaction, social action is lodged in acting individuals who fit their respective lines of action to one another through a process of interpretation; [the] group action [of interpretation] is the collective action of such individuals. As opposed to this view [of symbolic interaction, where selves 'make indications to themselves'], sociological conceptions generally lodge social action in the action of society or in some unit of society.
  3. ^ Jung, Carl Gustav (1934). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. The Collected Works: Part 1 of 9. A group experience takes place on a lower level of consciousness than the experience of an individual. This is due to the fact that, when many people gather together to share one common emotion, the total psyche emerging from the group is below the level of the individual psyche. If it is a very large group, the collective psyche will be more like the psyche of an animal, which is the reason why the ethical attitude of large organizations is always doubtful. The psychology of a large crowd inevitably sinks to the level of mob psychology. If, therefore, I have a so-called collective experience as a member of a group, it takes place on a lower level of consciousness than if I had the experience by myself alone.
  4. ^ Durkheim, Émile (1979) [1951]. "Imitation". Suicide: A Study in Sociology [Étude de sociologie]. Translated by Spaulding, John A.; Simpson, George. New York, NY: THE FREE PRESS. pp. 213, 252, 281. ISBN 978-0-684-83632-4. One of the constitutive elements of every national temperament consists of a certain way of estimating the value of existence. There is a collective as well as an individual humor inclining peoples to sadness or cheerfulness, making them see things in bright or sombre lights. In fact, only society can pass a collective opinion on the value of human life…In normal conditions the collective order is regarded as just by the great majority of persons…If the individual isolates himself, it is because the ties uniting him with others are slackened or broken , because society is not sufficiently integrated at the points where he is in contact with it. These gaps between one and another individual consciousness, estranging them from each other, are authentic results of the weakening of the social fabric.
  5. ^ Bergson, Henri (1912) [1900]. Laughter: an Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. Translated by Brereton, Cloudesley; Rothwell, Fred. The Macmillan Company. As a general rule, an intense feeling successively encroaches upon all other mental states, and colours them with its own peculiar hue; if, then, we are made to witness this gradual impregnation, we finally become impregnated ourselves with a corresponding emotion. To employ a different image, an emotion may be said to be dramatic and contagious when all the harmonics in it are heard along with the fundamental individual mental state, it is the emotion, the original mood
  6. ^ Mead, George Herbert (2015) [1934]. "PART II: MIND 8. Imitation and the Origin of Language". In Morris, Charles W.; Huebner, Daniel R.; Joas, Hans (eds.). Mind, Self & Society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 58–59. doi:10.7208/chicago/9780226112879.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-226-11273-2. [T]he 'herding' instinct, if reduced down to something concrete in the action of the form itself...this may lead to a stampede in the herd. Something of that sort is involved in the so-called 'sentinel.' One animal, a little more sensitive than the others, lifts his head and starts to run away, and the other animals do tend to move with the sentinel form...[Y]ou [humans] unconsciously imitate [dialects]. The same thing is also true of various other [primate] mannerisms...That is what we call 'imitation,' and what is curious is that there is practically no indication of such behavior on the part of lower [life]forms. You can teach a sparrow to sing as a canary but you have to keep that sparrow constantly listening to a canary. It does not take place general the taking over of the processes of others is not natural to lower forms. Imitation seems to belong to the human form, where it has reached some sort of independent conscious existence.
  7. ^ Woods, Leigh (2006). "Growing Pains, 1910-1913". Transatlantic Stage Stars in Vaudeville and Variety: Celebrity Turns. Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-1-4039-7536-2. In the 1830s and 1840s, Auguste Comte had founded the field of sociology on the premise that groups were more important than individuals were in forming and changing societies. Comte's views never gained consensus in France or elsewhere, but they brought a backlash against his egalitarianism, such as it was. One of the sharper responses came in 1895 with Gustave Le Bon's book, La Psychologie des Foules (The Pychology of Crowds). Le Bon believed, as one who's studied him writes, 'from the moment when the moral forces on which a civilisation rested have lost their strength, its final dissolution is brought about by those unconscious and brutal crowds barbarians.'
  8. ^ Goffman, Erving (1980) [1959]. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books: A Division of Random House, Inc. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-385-094023. A 'performance' may be defined as all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants.
  9. ^ Blumer, Herbert (1998) [1969]. "Society as Symbolic Interaction". Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-520-05676-3. group action is the collective action of such individuals ['who fit their respective lines of action to one another through the process of interpretation']...the individuals composing...the group become 'carriers,' or media for the expression of such forces; and the interpretative behavior by means of which people form their actions is merely a coerced link in the play of such forces.
  10. ^ Durkheim, Émile (1979) [1951]. "Imitation". Suicide: A Study in Sociology [Étude de sociologie]. Translated by Spaulding, John A.; Simpson, George. New York, NY: THE FREE PRESS. pp. 125, 129. ISBN 978-0-684-83632-4. Thus we yawn, laugh, weep, because we see someone yawn, laugh or weep...The name of imitation must then be reserved solely for such facts if it is to have clear meaning, and we shall say: Imitation exists when the immediate antecedent of an act is the representation of a like act, previously performed by someone else; with no explicit or implicit mental operation which bears upon the intrinsic nature of the act reproduced intervening between representation and execution.
  11. ^ Bergson, Henri (1912) [1900]. Laughter: an Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. Translated by Brereton, Cloudesley; Rothwell, Fred. The Macmillan Company. Laughter appears to stand in need of an echo, Listen to it carefully: it is not an articulate, clear, well-defined sound; it is something which would fain be prolonged by reverberating from one to another, something beginning with a crash, to continue in successive rumblings, like thunder in a mountain. Still, this reverberation cannot go on for ever. It can travel within as wide a circle as you please: the circle remains, none the less, a closed one.
  12. ^ Marchese, David (23 September 2016). "Norm Macdonald Unloads on Modern Comedy, SNL, Fallon's Critics, Hillary, and Trump". Vulture: Devouring Culture. Quote by Norm Macdonald. Retrieved 23 January 2021. On TV, every single joke kills. That's not what happens with stand-up. You have to earn every laugh. Another thing is that there's no room for interpretation in stand-up...with stand-up, it's all about getting that noise — getting that laugh. And it has to come for everyone at the same time. Everyone has to think the same thing at the same time.
  13. ^ McConachie, Bruce (2008). Engaging Audiences: A Cognitive Approach to Spectating in the Theatre. palgrave macmillan. pp. 47, 67. ISBN 978-0-230-11673-3. No one would call a Steelers game an 'illusion,' but theatre artists and the theatre[-]going public often refer to events on stage as illusory and even unreal. ... Emotional contagion entails 'the tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize facial expressions, vocalizations, postures, and movements with those of another person and, consequently, to converge emotionally,' note Hatfield, Cacioppo, and Rapson. 'You can catch an emotion, just as you can catch a cold, without knowing whom you caught it from,' says philosopher Robert M. Gordon, who writes about emotional contagion in the theatre as well as in everyday life.
  14. ^ [8][9][10][11][12][13]
  15. ^ Andrews, Richard (1993). Scripts and Scenarios: The Performance of Comedy in Renaissance Italy. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-521-03415-9. [T]he model of carnival cannot be offered without reservation as an explanation of the Decameron or of any other comic artefact from the Middle Ages or Renaissance. Carnival, as Bakhtin argues, makes no distinctions but programmatically reduces (or raises) everyone to the same level, trickster along with tricked, spectator along with actor: 'It is, first of all, a festive laughter. Therefore it is not an individual reaction to some isolated 'comic' event. Carnival laughter is the laughter of all the people. Second, it is universal in scope: it is directed at all and everyone, including the carnival's participants.'
  16. ^ Baldwin, James (1998) [1972]. "No Name in the Street: Take Me to the Water". In Morrison, Toni (ed.). Baldwin: Collected Essays. New York, NY: The Library of America. p. 397. ISBN 978-1-883011-52-9. The racial dividing lines of Southern towns are baffling and treacherous for a stranger…I will never forget it. I don’t know if I can describe it. Everything abruptly froze into what, even at that moment, struck me as a kind of Marx Brothers parody of horror. Every white face turned to stone: the arrival of the messenger of death could not have had a more devastating effect than the appearance in the restaurant doorway of a small, unarmed, utterly astounded black man. I had realized my error as soon as I opened the door: but the absolute terror on all these white faces—I swear that not a soul moved—paralyzed me. They stared at me, I stared at them.
  17. ^ Carroll, Noël (1990). The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 28, 36, 53. ISBN 0-415-90145-6. Art-horror requires evaluation both in terms of threat and disgust. ... some emotional states are the cognitive-evaluative sort. And, of course, I would hold that art-horror is one of these. ... The audience's psychological state, therefore, diverges from the psychological state of characters in respect of belief, but converges on that of characters with respect to the way in which the properties of said monsters are emotively assessed.
  18. ^ "The Religious Experience of the Rave - Theatre Arts - UIowa Wiki". Retrieved 2019-08-03.
  • Borkenau, Franz, 1981. End and Beginning, On the Generations of Cultures and the Origins of the West. (ed. and intro. by Richard Lowenthal). New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Freud, Sigmund, 1955. Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works. In Standard Edition, XVIII (1920–1922). London: Hogarth.
  • Le Bon, Gustave, 1960. (First Published 1895). The Mind of the Crowd. New York: Viking.
  • Puri, B.K., Laking, P.J. and Teasaden, I.H., 1996. Textbook of Psychiatry. Edinburgh, London, New York, Philadelphia, Sydney, St Louis, Toronto: Churchill Livingstone.
  • Scarfuto, Christine M., 2009. The Religious Experience of the Rave