Applying crowd psychology to develop recommendations for the management of mass decontamination

Holly Carter, John Drury, G. James Rubin, Richard Williams, Richard Amlôt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Mass decontamination is a public health intervention employed by emergency responders following a chemical, biological, or radiological release. It involves a crowd of people whose interactions with each other and with the emergency responders managing the incident are likely to affect the success of the decontamination process. The way in which members of the public collectively experience decontamination is likely to affect their behavior and hence is crucial to the success of the decontamination process. Consequently, responders and the responsible authorities need to understand crowd psychology during mass emergencies and disasters. Recently, the social identity approach to crowd psychology has been applied to explain public perceptions and behavior during mass emergencies. This approach emphasizes that crowd events are characteristically intergroup encounters, in which the behavior of one group can affect the perceptions and behavior of another. We summarize the results from a program of research in which the social identity approach was applied to develop and test recommendations for the management of mass decontamination. The findings from this program of research show that (1) responders' perceptions of crowd behavior matter; (2) participants value greater communication and this affects their compliance; and (3) social identity processes explain the relationship between effective responder communication and relevant outcome variables, such as public compliance, public cooperation, and public anxiety. Based on this program of research, we recommend 4 responder management strategies that focus on increasing public compliance, increasing orderly and cooperative behavior among members of the public, reducing public anxiety, and respecting public needs for privacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Security
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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