Social Influence

Edinburgh is a city filled with year-round festivals and celebrations that attract many people from all around the UK and the World. The biggest yet is Hogmanay – the Scottish way of celebrating the New Year. It is a three-day celebration that starts on 30th of December with Torchlight Procession and ends on 1st of January with The Loony Dook. Although I had not heard of Hogmanay before coming to Edinburgh, I am very glad that I was part of this Torchlight Procession during my stay in this beautiful city.

When Dan, Joni, and I first got our torches at the entrance, Dan and I immediately started guessing how much Heat Release Rate the torch would have and how fast would it burn. But then, after seeing thousands of people jammed on South Bridge, we started reluctantly thinking about people’s behaviour with a meter long lighted torches. According to BBC news, this year there were 20 000 participants and 20 000 spectators in the procession (1). Luckily, we witnessed no fire-related accidents during the procession.

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This semester in Lund, we are taking Human Behaviour in Fire class, where we learned about different theories related to human behaviour during a fire. One of the theories made me think about this procession. Although there was no emergency during the event, people’s behaviour, I think, is still relatable to the theory of Social Influence. According to the theory suggested by M. Deutsch and H.B. Gerard, normative social behaviour is characterized as people not wanting to stand out and making fool of themselves, hence behaving in accordance with what is expected from them (2). During the procession, torchbearers were walking cautiously and at the same pace. Nobody wanted to walk faster, bypass each other, or cause discomfort to others. Although there were some that stopped during the walk to get that “Picture perfect” photo of themselves walking with a torchlight, by which they caused disturbance to others. I must confess, I also wanted to stop and get a good photo of mine taken during the procession. However, following a classical case of normative social influence, I wanted to avoid glares and judgment of people, so I chose not to do so (although I have some good photos before and after).

Overall, being part of this procession was a memorable experience. Many thanks to Dan and Joni for quality time.

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References

  1. Brown, Angie. Edinburgh torchlight procession creates giant Scotland map. BBC News. [Online] BBC, December 31, 2018. [Cited: February 27, 2019.] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-46721188.
  2. Nilsson, Daniel. Exit choice in fire emergencies – Influencing choice of exit with flashing lights. Lund : Lund University , 2009.
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