Understanding crowd responses to perceived hostile threats: a multidisciplinary approach

Anne Templeton, Maika Telga, Enrico Ronchi, Fergus Gilmour Neville, Stephen David Reicher, John Drury

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People facing threat may evacuate, help others, confront the source of threat, share information, ignore the threat and the plight of others, or enact a combination of these behaviours. Accurate conceptual models of crowd behaviours must consider why and when these behaviours occur, as well as how people’s responses may vary across different scenarios. Researchers have investigated crowd responses to threats using a variety of methods such as interviews, observational analysis and virtual reality experiments. Each methodology offers benefits to understanding collective responses to threats but each methodology also has limitations. Importantly, very little research has explored crowd responses in false alarm situations where crowd members misperceive that a threat exists. In this paper, we describe a new multidisciplinary programme of work which combines approaches from safety engineering and social psychology to gain a thorough understanding of crowd behaviour in response to real and (mis)perceived threats, and the processes underpinning the behaviour. We focus on how we identified and addressed the similarities and differences in our research questions, conceptual approaches to research, and methodological abilities. We demonstrate how our multidisciplinary approach provides a framework for combining diverse research methods that collectively build knowledge to create more accurate models of crowd responses to (mis)perceived threats.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalCollective Dynamics
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2024


  • Crowd behaviour
  • Evacuation
  • Collective dynamics
  • Qualitative methods
  • Quantitative methods
  • Virtual reality
  • Crowd dynamics
  • Crowd psychology
  • Observation method


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