Skip to Content

Disparities in Crowd-Directed Force Behaviors: Examining the Effects of Crowd Racial Composition and Crowd Size on Crowd-Directed Force Behaviors in a Contextually Rich VR Experiment

In response to protests following the murder of George Floyd, long-range acoustic devices were increasingly used to disperse crowds of civilians. The central aim of this work is to examine the effects of crowd composition (i.e., size of a crowd, race ratio of a crowd) on differential crowd-directed force behaviors (i.e., noise burst). In a pilot study participants (N=58) viewed crowds varying in size and racial composition and administered a noise burst they believed would disperse the crowd. Participants also rated how physically sensitive and threatening they perceived the average Black individual to be relative to the average White individual. We found significant effects of crowd size and crowd race ratio on noise burst loudness, such that, as the size of a crowd and the ratio of Black to White individuals in a crowd increased, participants administered louder noise bursts. The effect of race ratio on loudness was strongest among participants who believed Black individuals were less sensitive to physical stimuli and more threatening than White individuals. The current study aims to further investigate the influences of crowd composition on trait inferences and crowd-directed force behaviors in a contextually rich experiment in VR. The computer-based judgment task used in the pilot study lacked mundane realism (i.e., crowds were portrayed as face images on a screen). I seek to address this issue by integrating virtual reality (VR) technology. This current work is both theoretically rich and advances the practical value of behavioral research. This work seeks to advance our understanding of the cognitive mechanisms that may underlie biases in perceptions and behaviors toward crowds. This work would also establish the efficacy of integrating VR technology into social psychological research. The current VR project is currently in a pilot phase as we learn how to integrate the study in VR.