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Criminology of Riots

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 36 Issue: 3 Dated: (Fall 1992) Pages: 173-186
H J Schneider
Date Published
14 pages
The history of riot research illustrates underlying psychological and sociological patterns and how the mass media portrays riots.
Riots occur in irregular cycles and frequently accumulate at certain places or times, thus making riot research difficult. Although riots occur more often in connection with demonstrations, other motives are also present. Minority groups often use riots to protest their socioeconomic disadvantages. Visits from foreign heads of State are frequently used to stage riots because of their elevated social visibility. Three basic forms of collective violence have been identified in the course of history: primitive collective violence by one small group directed at another small group; reactive collective violence directed at those in power; and modern collective violence defined by an increasing number of riot participants and by clearly defined operational goals. Evaluating riot causes is complex, and psychological, sociological, and psychological factors have to be taken into account. Three recent causation theories have been advanced: (1) criminal- biological regression theory based on the idea of an aggression instinct; (2) psychoanalytic social contagion theory that riot participants are carried away by their subconscious, feelings, or instincts; and (3) psychopathological convergence theory that individuals who share similar characteristics or abnormal personal traits, predispositions, or attitudes converge in the riot situation. In covering riots, the mass media should offer the parties involved a platform for peaceful conflict settlement at an early stage. The mass media should avoid live reporting on riots and analyze them truthfully by identifying their social causes and consequences. Ways to prevent or control riots are discussed. 31 references


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