The nation’s columnists and behavioural experts are attempting to make sense of the recent anarchy in English cities. Here’s a handy round-up of some of the best psychological and sociological comment so far (please do use comments to highlight articles you’ve come across):
Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks blog explains how the social psychology of crowd control, which has informed policing of protests and sports events, struggles to shed much light on the current violence and looting.
Several psychologists and criminologists are quoted in this BBC featurette “What turns people into looters?“
New Scientist describes the recent events as the UK’s “first networked riots“.
Ian Leslie, author of Born Liars, explains the riots as a combination of social alienation and technology-assisted mimicry.
Social psychologist Clifford Stott criticises the idea that the acts of violence and rioting are meaningless. [Stott is the psychologist who’s work was mentioned in Vaughan’s Mind Hacks post].
Zoe Williams for the Guardian offers wide-ranging thoughts and commentary on the whys and wherefores of the riots.
Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, says large numbers of youths feel disconnected from their local communities.
Michael McCarthy for the Independent blames the riots and immoral behaviour on a loss of a sense of unwritten cultural norms.
UPDATE (16.50 Aug 10)
Grabbed from comments: “These are not hunger or bread riots. These are riots of defective and disqualified consumers” (Social Europe Journal).
The Week has gathered together 5 theories on what caused the riots.
Jonah Lehrer (author of How We Decide) offers his perspective: “We just don’t know how [mobs] matter, or why a group of hooded young men is capable of such awful deeds“
UPDATE (Aug 18)
“Nobody riots on their own“: social psychologists Steve Reicher and Clifford Stott are quoted in Scientific American applying social identity theory to rioting.
Tom Stafford on Mind Hacks discusses some fascinating research in moral psychology as he reflects on the moral outrage shown by some commentators, not just towards the looting, but towards any attempt to explain the looting as anything other than simple criminality.
Clifford Stott (again) and media psychologist Pamela Rutledge talk to the New York Times about England’s struggle to understand why the rioting occurred.
This is a special edition of the Digest’s new Morsels feature.