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Everyone for themselves? A comparative study of crowd solidarity among emergency survivors


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr John Drury, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK (e-mail:


Crowd behaviour in emergencies has previously been explained in terms of either ‘mass panic’ or strength of pre-existing social bonds. The present paper reports results from a study comparing high- versus low-identification emergency mass emergency survivors to test the interlinked claims (1) that shared identity in an emergency crowd enhances expressions of solidarity and reduces ‘panic’ behaviour and (2) that such a shared identity can arise from the shared experience of the emergency itself. Qualitative and descriptive quantitative analyses were carried out on interviews with 21 survivors of 11 emergencies. The analysis broadly supports these two claims. The study therefore points to the usefulness of a new approach to mass emergency behaviour, based on self-categorization theory (SCT).

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