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Crowding is a personal, percieved state of mind that may occur due to conditions of high population density (Baron & Richardson, 2004). Crowding refers to the feeling of others being too close versus them actually being too close (Stenstrom, lecture 4-20-10). When someone is actually physically invading someones elses space this pertains to the term density (Stenstrom, lecture 4-20-10). There is a difference in these terms in the sense that crowding is subjective and density objective. Researchers place a confusion on the two when they do not distiguish them from one another, and yet use them interchangeably (Stokols, 1972).

External factors produce variety of behaviors in people. Evidence has shown that crowding can lead to a decrease in agressive behavior, as well as an increase in such behavior (Griffitt & Veitch, 1971; Loo, 1972; Mathew et al., 1979). When a region becomes overcrowded, this will lead to discomfort and stress in a population. Limited resources arise and the space available to live remains fixed which leads to damage to the environment (Baron & Richardson, 2004). Research also shows that there is upleasant and stressful behaviors due to the high density. However the relationship between density and aggressive behavior has an unclear and unconsistant conslusion (Baron & Richardson, 2004). To examine aggression and crowding one has to look at some conditions such as people have their own personal space preference and interpret situations differently (Lawrence & Andrews, 2004).

Worchel and Teddlie (1976) conducted a study where they manipulated the density and the interaction distance within people to see which is related to crowding. They used male students (seven or eight at a time); likely due to other previous studies that showed an increase in aggression in males buy not females due to crowding (Freedman, Levy, Buchanan, & Price,1972; Schettino & Borden, 1976; Stokols, Rall, Pinner, & Schopler, 1973). Participants were either in a samll room (high-density) or a large room (small-density). In these rooms there were chairs in a circle; some were placed one-and-one-half feet between each other (far condition) while others had their legs touching (close condition).The participants then did a word task, questionnaires, and answered a human relation problem (Baron & Richardson, 2004). When it came to the group discussing a suitable way of dealing with deliquency in juveniles, distance influenced thier judgement whereas density did not. The results showed that the spatial variable was related to crowding as opposed to density.

Research shows that crowding gets positive and negative reactions out of people. The instensification hypothesis by Feedman (1975) states that crowding will intensify the normal reatctions that individuals have to any situation. For instance if someones normal reactions are positve then crowding will get them more positive support, as oppossed to someone with typical negative reactions. Crowding typically occurs because the population increases continually, however people also put themselves in these crowded situations such as going out to parties, sport games and clubs. Overcrowding also occurs in the home, neigborhoods and social institutions; distress that turns to aggression has been linked to these conditions (Lawrence & Andrews, 2004). When a situation becomes overcrowded, chances of competion and stress is more then likely to occur. The stress can then lead to aggressive outcomes.

In its own way, crowding can reduce violence because research stated that it brings out the positive in people. The instensification hypothesis also mentioned that it depends on a persons natural reaction, will determine the outcome. However from personal opinion crowding can not prevent violence. For instance in prisons they are highly over populated which may infact cause some of the violence that takes place in that institution. If these prisoners were given enough distance from one another (rooming in small cells) then their aggression and stress levels will reduce. However it is unlikely that this will happen. The population continuosly grows and regardless the number, crowding is a subjective feeling. There are people that suffer from disorders that make them feel overcrowded everyday; for instance claustrorphobic people. Not to say that they will be aggression, yet that its a fear of being closed in, is not a good feeling to them as crowding is for some.

Example / Application - Real life

Recently on May 6, 2010, the Sun News posted an aritcle called "Frat party fallout in Town of Hamburg: one arrest, one injured officer" (Krycia, 2010, para 18). Hamburg police received a call about a disturbance occuring outside of Micheal's Banquet Hall (Krycia, 2010, para 18). The call stated that there was a group of people fighting out side the hall.The research on crowding may explain what occurred with the fraternity brothers on April 30, 2010 in Hamburg. The article mentions that the fraternity had been fudraising from Friday to Saturday morning (2:45 am when the police arrived), and that the altercation first began on the bus.The bus was transporting approximately 100 people, and disagreement as to who should have been on the bus occurred. This can be due to the fact that crowding causes discomfort and stress; on a bus of 100 people leaves very little personal space for an indivdual. The distance on a bus between two individuals is not alot of space, leaves little room for interaction distance. If some of the brothers previously did not agree with the extra people being on the bus, then due to the density on the bus this only brought out negative reactions by the crowd and themselves even more, it intensified there reactions. Police metioned that the problem was first isolated on the bus with just a little shoving and pushing. Once the fundraiser started, the number of people began to multiple (700 total including frat members), which made the facility more crowded, which then increased aggression in frat members even more.

When police officers arrived on the scene instead of using "crowd control," which is getting the people not involved away from the scene (Krycia, 2010, para 18), they were charging people with minor crimes such a disorderly conduct. This gave officers a disadvantage, this only enraged people more to see their friends being removed. There was not just one precincts that showed up, at least three different police departments were on the scene. By the large number of people and the amount of officers on the scene, this only brought out higher stress levels. In the end one police officer was hurt and now has to take time off from work. The article mentions how when there is riot or a large number of people in a conflict that police officers should not get enraged with the crowd because this will only worsen a situation. As mentioned previously the insticifiaction hypothesis states that if ones reaction is positve then the crowd will favor that person. If an officer comes to a scene and is asking people to dispurse with mean threats of arrest the crowd will go against that and cause more trouble. One of the offiers specified that officers have to use logic and common sence when dealing with crowds (Krycia, 2010, para 18).

Example / Application - Columbine

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were two teenage boys from Littleton Colorado and who went on a rampage at their highschool; Columbine (Chen, 2009). There was reports that these two boys were on a vengeance to kill the jocks, for making them feel less than, however this information was inaccurate; they did not just target one group. These young men were not from the trenchcoat mafia like the media said (Chen, 2009), yet the two teenagers were suffering from psychological disorders such as depression and psychopathy (Toppo, 2009). They wanted to be infamous, and never intended to shoot up their school, yet bomb it (Chen, 2009), like the Oaklahoma 1995 city bomber. These young men were not loners like the media portrayed them to be, they went to prom and had a group of friends (Chcen, 2009 ).

One may ask, were these young men so aggressive due to crowding and density? What happened at this highschool, crowding cannot explain. These two young men had clincial disorders and was trying to pull off a terrorist attack. They did feel isolated and excluded from others, this is the opposite of what crowding and density is. However the condition that were both were in is what influenced these emotions; which lead led to the revenge. Crowding is when one feels their personal space is being invaded which then can bring about stressors and discomfort. These men wanted to be noticed by a specific crowd (Toppo, 2009), because they not only had friends, they picked on kids that was outcast from the whole school. These boys wanted to interact with a certain crowd and could not so this brought about their stress.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned to kill thousands of people, they wanted the whole student body to die, including police and parents that tried to come rescue their children (Toppo, 2009). If these boys happen to be attacking because of the feeling of being bullied, crowding in some ways can be relavent. Relavent in the fact that large density of people were bullying them and that they felt the pressure of the being crowded because they were constantly being pushed around. However they wanted the attention from the crowd they wanted to be infamous terrorist.

If crowding did fit the Columbine theory, then it can be used to reduce future attacks however the population is going to continously grow so overcrowded instituion are going to occur. However institutions that are crowded do lead to aggression and competition with others. So if these institutions can expand it can help reduce the issue. One condition to consider is the fact that crowding leads to aggression not density, so reagardless if numbers show that there is no large number of people one still can feel crowded because it is a subjective feeling. In a sence these boys were in competition for the attention of appraisal or just being known by the right people. So being out shined could have been reason yet reasearch has shown it was due to their clincial conditions.


Baron, R., Richardson, D. (2004). Human Agression. (2nd edition). NY: Plenum.

Freedman, J., Levy, A., Buchanan, R., Price, J. (1972). Crowding and Human Aggressiveness. Journal of Experimental social Psychology. 8(6), 528-548.

Griffit, W., Veitch, R. (1972). Hot and crowded: Influence of population density and temperature on interpersonal affective behavior.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 17(1), Jan, 1971. 92-98.

Krycia, F. (2010). Frat party fallout in Town of Hamburg: one arrest, one injured officer. Retrieved May 9, 2010 from the Sun News:

Lawrence, C., Andrews, K. (2004).The influence of perceived prison crowding on male inmates' perception of aggressive events. Aggressive Behavior. 30(4), 273-283.

Stokals, D.(1972). On the distinction between density and crowding: Some implications for future research. Psychological Review. 79(3), 275-277.

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