Clifford Stott is a social psychology professor who has gained an MBE for his world-leading work on crowd psychology. Murray Brunt invited Clifford to deliver the Institute Wade lecture after hearing his fascinating work discussed on ‘The Life Scientific” on the BBC; only then realising that Clifford was round the corner at Keele University.
Clifford studied the London Poll Tax riots and Italian World cup in 1990, riots in the UK in 2011 and in Hong Kong in 2019, using social media and mapping to follow their trajectory.
His work indicated that, rather than riots being driven by hooligans who are predisposed to violence (the ‘mindless mob’ perspective developed at the end of the nineteenth century), they are structured and led by beliefs. The majority of the crowd consider that they are peaceful protestors with a right to express their views. If disorder or confrontation starts, and the police act against it, the crowd experiences what they consider is illegitimate police use of force. This changes their behaviour so that they resist the police. His research has led to changes in policing by some authorities with the aim of reducing violent confrontations.
Clifford has influenced policy on the policing of crowds for big events such as the UEFA European Championships and with police forces as far afield as the USA, Australia and Sweden. More recently has focused on the social and behavioural impact of lockdowns. The Covid 19 pandemic has exposed multiple and complex ‘Grand Challenges’ to human society. As the outbreak developed societies began to recognise that the disease had profound implications, for which the UK was ill prepared. Clifford will tell us about this and more.