SU professor examines the psychology behind rioting

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Buildings were set on fire, businesses were looted, and more than one dozen police officers were injured in the Baltimore riots.

Why do people riot and how does it escalate so quickly?

A psychology professor at Syracuse University says often times, riots stem from basic human psychology -- people's desperate desire to be a part of the crowd.

"When you're in a crowd, the goals and the values and the norms of the group that you're apart of start playing a bigger role in the decisions in your behavior than your own private standards and private norms," says Professor Leonard Newman.

It's called deindividuation: when people stop behaving like themselves and start behaving as a group.

Newman says in the heat of the moment, it can happen to anyone.

"We all like to think we're law abiding citizens and we would never get involved in something like this, but we might now know how we would behave if we were in a crowd. We really might not know how we would behave if we were in a crowd at night, under the cover of darkness," says Newman.

Experts say the problem with these riots is the original message and the call for justice, gets lost in the flames.

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