The Nature of Collective Resilience: Survivor Reactions to the 2005 London Bombings

March 2009 (VOL. 27, NO. 1)

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Accounts from over 90 survivors and 56 witnesses of the 2005 London bombings were analysed to determine the relative prevalence of mass behaviors associated with either psychosocial vulnerability (e.g. ‘selfishness’, mass panic) or collective resilience (e.g. help, unity). ‘Selfish’ behaviors were found to be rare; mutual helping was more common. There is evidence for (a) a perceived continued danger of death after the explosions; (b) a sense of unity amongst at least some survivors, arising from this perceived danger; (c) a link between this sense of unity and helping; and (d) risk-taking to help strangers. We suggest a novel explanation for this evidence of ‘collective resilience’, based on self-categorization theory, according to which common fate entails a redefinition of self (from ‘me’ to ‘us’) and hence enhanced concern for others in the crowd.