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collective behavior

Definition of Collective Behavior

(noun) The voluntary, relatively spontaneous short-term response to an emerging situation by a large group of people that often violates norms and values.

Examples of Collective Behavior

Collective Behavior Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: col·lec·tive be·hav·ior

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /kuh-lEk-tiv bi-hAY-vyuhr/
  • British English – /kuh-lEk-tiv bi-hAY-vyuh/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /kəˈlɛktɪv bɪˈheɪvjər/
  • British English – /kɒˈlɛktɪv bɪˈheɪvjə/

Usage Notes

Related Quotation

  • “Through a complex process that is not yet fully understood by students of mass communication, the mere reporting of one event has, under certain circumstances, the effect of triggering off events of a similar order. This effect is much easier to understand and is better documented in regard to the spread of crazes, fashions, fads and other forms of collective behaviour, such as mass delusion or hysteria, than in cases of deviance. The main reason why this process has been misunderstood in regard to deviance – particularly collective and novel forms – is that too much attention has been placed on the supposed direct effects (imitation, attention, gratification, identification) on the deviants, rather than the effects on the control system and culture and hence (via such processes as amplification) on the deviance” (Cohen 2002:187).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Cohen, Stanley. 2002. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.

Works Consulted

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Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: The Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

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Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.

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Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).

Cite the Definition of Collective Behavior

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “collective behavior.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-behavior/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

collective behavior. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-behavior/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “collective behavior.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-behavior/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“collective behavior.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 23 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-behavior/>.