Can high levels of fear turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into outlaws? How can that happen? What are the circumstances that would contribute to that? This essay will provide some answers to the above questions.
There are several aspects of fear that have to be considered in order to understand how it influences the individual’s social behavior. First of all, high levels of fear can lead to distorted perception. Those individuals, who experience it, may misinterpret other people’s actions and intentions. When reason is overcome by imagination that is affected by panic, people are driven by such feelings as anger, prejudice, hate, and in extreme cases their actions result in violence, aggression and cruelty. People who already have a history of aggression and violence will be more prone to illegal actions when they are moved by fear.
Secondly, high levels of fear cause intense feelings of insecurity and mistrust. When someone feels insecure, he or she may feel threatened by people’s actions and unfamiliar situations, thus leading to unpredictable outcome. If such a person possesses firearms or carries a heavy item, he or she may use it against a potential, as they think, aggressor. They may act in defensive and sometimes offensive ways to protect themselves from the imagined danger, which may be exaggerated.
Thirdly, fear can be quite unpredictable and destructive when it comes to groups of people. Distorted perception reaches its climax in the mob mentality. When many human beings concentrate in large groups, their thinking often has a tendency to be reduced to that of the lowest group member. Large groups of people are quite similar to herds of animals in their instinctual reactions. If one panics because of fear, all follow him. If such a group is skillfully directed by a leader, its mood can quickly change from panic fear to extreme aggression resulting in dangerous and destructive riots.