Changing crowd management practices through research on effects of crowd participation

Submitting Institution

University of Sussex

Unit of Assessment

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Criminology, Sociology
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology

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Summary of the impact

Drury's research on the psychological effects of crowd participation has provided new rationales that have changed the crowd and emergency management practices used by a number of bodies and institutions; the concepts and principles he has helped to develop have become part of their guidance literature. Specifically the impacts are in two areas. The first is the policing of crowds, where new guidance embodies recommendations from his research to reduce the likelihood of conflict. The second is psychosocial care for people affected by emergencies, where his research on informal resilience in crowds has contributed to the rationale for a new approach evident in NATO and the Department of Health guidance and training.

Underpinning research

Drury has been at Sussex since 1998, conducting research on the psychological effects of participation in crowds, and has produced over 40 peer-reviewed publications on this topic in this time. The general principle of the research — the dynamic relationship between crowd processes and social identity — has had two research offshoots: one on the development of collective antagonism to illegitimate authority and one on the development of collective resilience to disaster. Hence there are two types of impact.

The first phase of this work, much of which was carried out in collaboration with Prof. Steve Reicher (St Andrews) and Dr Clifford Stott (Liverpool, Leeds), examined the psychological consequences of participation in crowd events such as protest demonstrations. Interview research on crowd conflicts [see Section 3, R1, R2] and an ethnographic study of direct action [R3, R4] identified a distinctive pattern. First, crowd participants often perceived their own actions as consensually legitimate or lawful, but police perceived these same actions as illegitimate and threatening. Second, the action taken by police against what they saw as illegitimate conduct in the crowd was perceived by crowd participants as not only illegitimate but also indiscriminate (i.e. threatening all crowd participants). Third, not only did relations with the police change, but so did relations within the crowd: since all crowd members now shared a `common fate' in relation to the police, they became more psychologically united with each other. Thus, whereas previously crowd participants may have supported the police and opposed violence, they now saw action against the police as legitimate; and, whereas previously there may have been divisions within the crowd, the new-found unity empowered crowd participants to take action against the police. This analysis contributed to the development by Reicher, Stott and Drury of the elaborated social identity model (ESIM) of crowd conflict dynamics [R1-R4]. Drury is a co-author of the ESIM and his distinct contribution was to show how enduring identity change (such as empowerment) arises within conflictual collective action. The ESIM, and therefore the work of Drury, provides the novel insight that certain forms of public-order policing (in particular, violent dispersal or containment) when perceived as illegitimate and indiscriminate can radicalise and empower crowd members and thereby create, escalate and extend the very `disorder' such tactics are meant to curb. Drury's part of the research was analysed, written up and published during his time at Sussex — i.e. 1998 onwards [R1-4].

In the second phase of this work (2004-2009), Drury (as PI, in collaboration with Reicher) applied the same social identity principles to the topic of crowd behaviour in emergencies. Through ESRC funding, he carried out a series of studies, including experiments using specially designed `virtual reality' animation [R5] and interviews with survivors from events such as the 7 July 2005 London bombings [R6, R7], which showed that emergent shared social identity is the basis of the co-operative and coordinated behaviour frequently observed in emergencies and disasters. The insight — that when emergencies create a sense of `common fate' a new shared identity is created which enhances adaptive collective response — was worked up into a model of informal collective resilience in crowds [R6, R7].

References to the research

R1 Drury, J. and Reicher, S. (1999) `The intergroup dynamics of collective empowerment: substantiating the social identity model', Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 2(4): 381-402.


R2 Stott, C. and Drury, J. (2000) `Crowds, context and identity: dynamic categorization processes in the "poll tax riot"', Human Relations, 53(2): 247-273.

R3 Drury, J. and Reicher, S. (2000) `Collective action and psychological change: the emergence of new social identities', British Journal of Social Psychology, 39(4): 579-604.


R4 Drury, J. and Reicher, S. (2005) `Explaining enduring empowerment: a comparative study of collective action and psychological outcomes', European Journal of Social Psychology, 35(1): 35- 58.


R5 Drury, J., Cocking, C., Reicher, S., Burton, A., Schofield, D., Hardwick, A., Graham, D. and Langston, P. (2009) `Cooperation versus competition in a mass emergency evacuation: a new laboratory simulation and a new theoretical model', Behavior Research Methods, 41(3): 957-970.


R6 Drury, J., Cocking, C. and Reicher, S. (2009) `Everyone for themselves? A comparative study of crowd solidarity among emergency survivors', British Journal of Social Psychology, 48(): 487-506.


R7 Drury, J., Cocking, C. and Reicher, S. (2009) `The nature of collective resilience: survivor reactions to the 2005 London bombings', International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 27(1): 66- 95.

Outputs can be supplied by the University on request.

Grants include: Drury, J., Reicher, S., Schofield, D. and Langston, P. (2004-2007) Effects of Social Identity on Responses to Emergency Mass Evacuation (ESRC, RES-000-23-0446, £160,935) R.5-R.7.

Details of the impact

As summarised above, this research has had impact in two areas.

The policing of crowds

This research has generated new public-order practices by police forces in the UK and across Europe, designed to reduce conflict between the police and crowds, by leading crowd members themselves to self-police. The impact is evident across a range of UK, European and international institutions.

Context of the impact

Crowd disorder is a significant social problem costing millions in resources and man-hours. There is also the human cost to many in terms of injury and imprisonment. Previous `solutions' have only magnified the problem (e.g. the use of further police coercion) or infringed human rights (e.g. travel bans for football fans). The ESIM (Reicher, Stott and Drury) specifies the police practices and psychological factors that explain the initiation and escalation of collective violence between crowds and the police. Extrapolation from the model has generated specific recommendations for police practices that, instead, minimise that collective conflict. These recommendations have been taken up by police forces in the UK and Europe, first in relation to football crowds, and now in relation to public order more generally.

Specific changes implemented

In the UK, the 2009 official report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Adapting to Protest [see Section 5, C1], recommended rejection of the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in public-order policing (in particular the automatic use of dispersal via baton charges) and advised, instead, the increased use of, and training in, facilitation and communication. The basis for this new policy was the research on crowd conflict dynamics by Reicher, Stott and Drury [C2], who are each mentioned by name in the report. The ESIM is therefore now the basis for the current programme of reform of police public order methods [Section 4, i]. Thus principles of public-order policing based on the ESIM are enshrined in the key official public-order guidance manual, Keeping the Peace [C3] produced jointly by the National Police Improvement Agency, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland. This manual explicitly recommends ESIM principles, and cites Reicher et al. These principles are: to understand the social identity of the crowd; to facilitate crowd aims; to communicate with crowd members; and to differentiate between crowd members, rather than treat them indiscriminately. A summary of the ESIM is now included in official training materials as part of the College of Policing National Public Order Training Curriculum [C4], which delivers a module on `Crowd Psychology' [C5] to all public-order commanders and command trainers nationally. The public-order policing model based on the ESIM has also been adopted by the National Police in Denmark as their framework for policing football there since 2008 [C6]. In addition, there was further international impact through the European Council Resolution of 3 June 2010 on measures to prevent and control violence and disturbances, and disturbances in connection with football matches [C7]. The guidance in the Resolution cites the `key principles' of facilitation, communication and differentiation (Appendix 1, C p. 165/16), wording and concepts transposed directly from the work by Drury and his colleagues [ii].

Process through which the research led to impacts

For the 2004 European Football Championships, held in Portugal, Drury's colleague Dr Clifford Stott was asked by the Portuguese police to design an intervention for the policing of the crowds based on ESIM principles. Based on the reduction in arrests and `riots', this intervention was judged a success [iii]; following this, in April 2005, two proposals based on the ESIM were accepted by the Police Cooperation Working Party of the Council of the European Union [iv]. These proposals were the basis of the European Council Resolution of 2010 detailed above. In addition, in 2007, Reicher, Stott, Drury and others published a key knowledge-transfer paper summarising the ESIM research and drawing out the public- order policing implications [ii]. The paper was written for a police audience, and enabled the translation of their findings into police practices, as codified in the national guidance [C1, C3-C5].

Psychosocial care for people affected by emergencies

Drury's research on emergent social identity in crowds has informed new guidance from NATO and the Department of Health on the role of psychosocial resilience in emergency response.

Context of the impact

Historically, those professionally involved in emergency preparedness have been concerned that crowds might panic or respond in a helpless manner. This assumption has been the basis of previous paternalistic `command and control' policies. In the face of many modern hazards, such top-down polices are becoming increasingly recognised as impractical. In line with this need for community resilience, Drury's research shows that crowds of people have the psychological capacity to help themselves in emergencies, often without expert intervention.

Specific changes implemented

Drury's is one of the studies that underpins the recent NATO (2009) guidance on psychosocial care for people in emergencies and disasters [C8]. Thus the guidance cites Drury's 7 July London bombs study [v] in three places. The evidence from the study — that social, and even helpful behaviour, rather than mass panic, is usually evident in mass emergencies (p.33), and that people may rapidly form bonds with strangers (p.36) — is therefore part of the rationale for the NATO Stepped Model of Care which builds on survivors' psychosocial capacities rather than assuming them to be ill or helpless. The guidance therefore recommends practical support, not psychiatric care, for most people affected by emergencies. In line with this, the guidance adopts the terminology proposed in Drury's ESRC research by referring to `collective resilience' (p.126). The key principles of the NATO guidance are included in the Department of Health Emergency Preparedness Division's (2009) document NHS Emergency Planning Guidance [C9]. This again refers to Drury's London bombs research [v] and, in addition, cites Drury's (social identity) definition of collective resilience (p.22); the wording is taken from a paper summarising Drury's London bombs study [vi]. The key principles of the NATO guidance, including Drury's concept of collective resilience, are also reproduced in another Department of Health/NHS guidance document on pandemics, produced for staff [C10] and in a Department of Health training module [C11]; each references Drury [vi].

Process through which the research led to impacts

In 2007, Drury produced an end-user report on his ESRC grant [v], in which his research findings were made free and accessible, and which he distributed to over 35 organisations concerned with emergency response and preparedness. As part of the same dissemination process, he gave a number of presentations to end-users, including an invited paper at the annual conference of the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee. The Department of Health Emergency Preparedness Division team made contact with him through that conference and then met to discuss with him how his work could contribute to the NATO guidance.


[i] Hoggett, J. and Stott, C. (2012) `Post G20: the challenge of change. Implementing evidence-based public order policing', Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 9(2): 174-183.

[ii] Reicher, S., Stott, C., Drury, J., Adang, O., Cronin, P. and Livingstone, A. (2007) `Knowledge-based public order policing: principles and practice', Policing: Journal of Policy and Practice, 1(4): 403-415.

[iii] Stott, C., Adang, O., Livingstone, A. and Schreiber, M. (2007) `Variability in the collective behaviour of England fans at Euro2004: "hooliganism", public order policing and social change', European Journal of Social Psychology, 37(1): 75-100.

[iv] European Union Handbook on International Police Cooperation and Measures to Prevent and Control Violence and Disturbances in Connection with Football Matches with an International Dimension (Proposal 8241/05 ENFOPOL 40, concerning dynamic risk assessment in the context of international football matches; and Proposal 8243/05 ENFOPOL 41, concerning police tactical performance for public order management) [C].

[v] Drury, J. and Cocking, C. (2007) The Mass Psychology of Disasters and Emergency Evacuations: A Research Report and Implications for Practice. Brighton: University of Sussex.

[vi] Williams, R. and Drury, J. (2009) `Psychosocial resilience and its influence on managing mass emergencies and disasters', Psychiatry, 8(8): 293-296.

Sources to corroborate the impact

C1 Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary (2009) Adapting to Protest: Nurturing the British Model of Policing. London.

C2 `Police accept crowd psychology findings', The Psychologist News, 12 January 2010)

C3 Association of Chief Police Officers/National Policing Improvement Agency (2010). Manual of guidance on keeping the peace.

C4 College of Policing (2012) National Police Public Order Training Curriculum (restricted). Can be corroborated by Head of Uniform Operation Support, College of Policing.

C5 College of Policing (2012) Crowd Psychology and Communications. Module for All Public Order Commanders (Gold, Silver and Bronze) Version 1.0 (restricted). In a letter to Dr Stott, Head of Uniform Operational Support at the College of Policing stated that the ESIM is `taught by our trainers to all public order commanders' and `is referenced in the National Police Public Order Training Curriculum' (letter dated 8 October 2013).

C6 Haveland, J., Ilum, J., Jensen, M.A., Nielsen, B.P., Rasmussen, K. and Stott, C. (2011) `Event policing: dialogue in the policing of mass events in Denmark', CEPOL European Police Science and Research Bulletin, 4: 3-7

C7 Official Journal of the European Union. COUNCIL RESOLUTION of 3 June 2010 concerning an updated handbook with recommendations for international police cooperation and measures to prevent and control violence and disturbances in connection with football matches with an international dimension, in which at least one Member State is involved.

C8 NATO (2009) Psychosocial Care for People Affected by Disasters and Major Incidents: A Model for Designing, Delivering and Managing Psychosocial Services for People Involved in Major Incidents, Conflict, Disasters and Terrorism. Brussels: NATO.

C9 Department of Health Emergency Preparedness Division (2009) NHS Emergency Planning Guidance. Planning for the Psychosocial and Mental Health Care of People Affected by Major Incidents and Disasters: Interim National Strategic Guidance.

C10 Department of Health Pandemic influenza Team (2009) Psychosocial Care for NHS Staff During an Influenza Pandemic.

C11 Department of Health Developing Psychosocial Resilience: How to cope in a crisis.