Gustave Le Bon gave three common characteristics of a person who is a member of a group.
• Feeling Invincible – Members will feel that they are impervious to harm. This characteristic is what allows people to break their normal thresholds.
• Contagion – The actions of groups are contagious. A person who admires the acts of a group will feel enticed to join them.
• Under a Hypnotic Spell – Once a member, he or she is hypnotized by the group’s influence. They will no longer be in control of their actions.
Whether we join a group or not, has a lot to do with who and where we are from. A group’s influence will have little affect if we do not admire their actions. If we pity or fear the actions of the group, their influence is powerless over us.
A group’s influence over us is born out of our admiration for their actions. Admiration is the result of a quality we wish we possess.
Legends can command admiration as well. A legendary action may be all that is needed to form a group. Legends are not just mythical men or women who performed superhuman acts. During the California Gold rush, it was the legend of a huge gold strike that enticed men and women to pack up and take a life threatening journey to California. This journey is an example of a group taking abnormal risk. The prospector’s of the California Gold Rush were part of a group.
Inherited group memberships can have a large influence over us. When we are born, it is likely we are already a member of several groups. If we come from a devout Catholic family, we are members of the Catholic Church at birth. Even if we chose to leave that group later in life, the exposure will influence our admiration of religious groups. A group membership at birth can include citizenship, social class, gender and even birth defects. If we are born blind, then we will likely feel admiration towards a group who are fighting for more access for the blind.
The community we are raised in will influence our feeling of admiration for groups as well. If we are raised in an oppressive country where freedom is limited, groups created by legendary freedom fighters will more than likely command our admiration.
As human beings we have common influences. These influences no matter where we are from will command some sort of admiration. The two most common are greed and fear. Since these feelings are prevalent in so many people, groups that command this type of influence typically have large memberships. Both greed and fear have created some of the most destructive and constructive groups over time.
It is normal for human beings to join and participate in group actions. We are all hopeful and this attribute combined with our need for happiness, will make us seek out groups that command our admiration. Because we are drawn to groups by our “Normal” Attributes, membership is therefore “Normal”. It could also be said that normalcy leads to abnormal behavior. This conclusion makes the outcome to abnormal acts predictable.