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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/303

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CRAZES.

tion; then precipitate, unreasoning action. In the panic, the psychological sequence is the same, except that fear takes the place of greed. The stampede among animals may be taken as the type of all panics. It is a reflex phenomenon consisting merely of contagious fear and precipitate, unintelligent flight. Fear and flight constitute a most primitive form of mental action, equalled in primitive character only by that other form whose survival we have seen illustrated in wars and homicidal manias, viz., anger, and combat. Although-the individual has long outgrown these simple reflexes, yet in social excitement he reverts to them. The recrudescence of the first of these two forms is seen in the case of panics in theatres and burning buildings, where social fear is followed by unintelligent flight, there being a temporary paralysis of reason, prudence, the power of choosing means to ends, respect for women and consideration for the weak and feeble.

The limits of this paper permit me only to refer to other forms of the craze illustrating the same laws. In fads and fashions of all kinds, the behavior of the social personality is different only in degree from that already described in the more serious epidemics. The law of imitation is the same, but there is less excitement and emotional disturbance and consequently a lesser paralysis of the higher mental faculties and a lesser return to barbaric impulses. Whereas the others may be called forms of social paranoia, these may be called forms of social monomania. A single idea fills the public mind, and as a result this idea is unduly exalted as to its importance and worth. The higher mental powers are paralyzed only so far as that there is a perverted judgment as to the relative importance of things and consequently a more or less distorted view of the world and its values. Perhaps the simplest form of this craze is seen in the epidemic character of children's games. At different times of the season different games completely fill the social consciousness of the child-world, so that for the moment there is no interest in any other game. New and interesting sports, such, for instance, as golf, often fill the social adult consciousness in the same way. Then there are social and literary fads, crazes in musical airs, fashions in dress, furniture, houses and carriages, without number. Crazes of all kinds have found a prolific soil in America. The American mind is highly suggestible. One fad after another rages over the country and in some cases reduces the aggregate mind to a condition of idiocy. The Dewey craze in New York City last year is an illustration of this. Nothing but a sort of hypnotic distortion of intellectual vision could cause grown men to stand in line for an hour in order that they might sit for an instant in the chair in which the hero sat during the review, or to fight for shreds of the flags and awnings that decorated the platform.

Sporadic social reform movements take the form of crazes and illus-