Predicting Lynching Atrocity: The Situational Norms of Lynchings in Georgia

Andrew J. Ritchey, R. Barry Ruback

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From 1882 to 1926, lynch mobs in Georgia killed 514 victims in 410 separate events. Based on a new comprehensive dataset, this study examined characteristics of the mobs related to the level of the atrocity of the violence in the lynchings. Consistent with prior research, the size of the crowd was a stable predictor of level of atrocity. However, in contrast to two prior studies, results did not uniformly support the self-attention perspective. Instead, the findings were more consistent with the concept that situational norms were the important mechanism behind collective violence, particularly because the violence used in a lynching event reflected the violence used in nearby lynchings. These results suggest that, rather than losing all norms of behavior through a process of deindividuation, lynchers adopted norms they viewed as appropriate for the situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-637
Number of pages19
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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