“Psychologists have attempted to understand how and why individuals and groups who
usually act humanely can sometimes act otherwise in certain circumstances. A number of
psychological concepts explain why abusive behavior occurs. These concepts include:
Deindividuation. Deindividuation is a process whereby the anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion provided in a crowd allows individuals to participate in behavior marked by the temporary suspension of customary rules and inhibitions. Individuals within a group may experience reduced self-awareness which can also result in disinhibited behavior.
Groupthink. Individuals often make very uncharacteristic decisions when part of a group. Symptoms of groupthink include: (1) Illusion of invulnerability-group members believe the group is special and morally superior; therefore its decisions are sound; (2) Illusion of unanimity in which members assume all are in concurrence, and (3) Pressure is brought to bear on those who might dissent.
Dehumanization. Dehumanization is the process whereby individuals or groups are viewed as somehow less than fully human. Existing cultural and moral standards are often not applied to those who have been dehumanized.
Enemy Image. Enemy image describes the phenomenon wherein both sides participating in a conflict tend to view themselves as good and peace-loving peoples, while the enemy is seen as evil and aggressive.
Moral Exclusion. Moral exclusion is a process whereby one group views another as fundamentally different, and therefore prevailing moral rules and practices apply to one group but not the other.”
– James R. Schlesinger, et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations