Brown bag du 6/05/2019 Guillaume Dezecache (University College London)

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Social strategies in response to deadly danger: insights from a mass shooting

Individual and collective reactions to threat are largely conceived as individualistic and anti-social: when exposed to threat, humans and other animals would revert to self-preservative motives, trying to flee as fast as possible, often at the expense of others. This conception can be traced back to the non-empirical conclusions of sociologist and social psychologist Gustave Le Bon, and is widespread both in academic and lay audiences. However, more recent work has consistently shown a very different pattern: instead of displaying self-preservative behaviour, humans show a high degree of supportiveness, even when their life directly is at risk. Those results are nonetheless still fragile. First, it is not clear that supportiveness occurs in all types of disasters. Second, we don't know whether supportiveness is a 'by-default' response to danger. Finally, previous work does not capture the motivations behind supportive behaviour. We conducted interviews with 32 survivors from the attacks at the Bataclan in November 2015 in Paris, asking them to describe their own actions and others’ at different moments of the attacks. I will present the results of this study, trying to shed light on the contextual factors and motivations behind supportiveness in the face of danger.