Characteristics Of Mass Hysteria

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Understanding Mass Hysteria and its Fundamental Characteristics The power of mass hysteria is so dangerous that it can create both physical and psychological situations that can take lives, change global politics and cause panic in hundreds or even thousands of individuals. Mass hysteria is when emotions, especially fear in a group of people are so strong that it leads people to act in an uncontrolled way. Some examples of mass hysteria are the Salem witch trials, the fear experienced by Americans during the Cold War and the hundreds of false accusations against the McMartin preschool staff in California. There are many parallels in each of the cases of mass hysteria in this paper; all 3 cases are spread by rumors, they all have an authority figure that plays a major role in continuing the hysteria and all three cases have moral and cultural beliefs that have made people distrustful (Bartholomew). Recently, society has experienced panic and mass hysteria with the outbreak of Ebola; it is clear that today’s society is still susceptible to the dangers of mass hysteria. Basic human emotions like fear, moral panic and a desire for power and …show more content…
“Stanley Cohen, the author of “Folk Devils and Moral Panics”, defines moral panic as anything “defined as a threat to societal values and interests” (Quartey). There are several characteristics of moral panic present in the Ebola panic; West Africans are seen as the enemy that can bring disease and death, society is demanding that the government take action against this enemy by denying them entrance into the country and the fear against Ebola is exaggerated considering the amount of cases and deaths in the country. Clearly societies have to be careful to not let their fears lead to devastating outcomes that can reach farther than the small community of people experiencing the symptoms (“Mass Hysteria in Schools”,

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