By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We have heard about the riots that sometimes break out in Europe after soccer matches. Often we wonder why people can react so severely to a sporting match. It is actually predictable behavior.

About 100 years ago Sigmund Freud wrote about the id, the ego and the superego. The id is the pleasure principle. It drives us to get what we want. Impulse buyers are driven by the id. That is true whether they can afford it or not.

Infants present a good example of the id. They cry when they want something. It is up to the parents to determine what it is they want. They will continue crying until they get it. It might be food. It might be a diaper change. It simply might be wanting to be held.

The ego is the reality principle. The ego controls much of our adult behavior. It controls our impulse to buy if we cannot afford it. It knows that you can’t have everything you want at the exact time that you want it. Thus infants learn to eat at certain times. They learn to sleep at certain times.

The superego is the moral principle. The id may crave things. The ego may want to have that occur at certain times. However, not everything that we crave is something we should have. The superego makes sure we do not do something immoral to get it. It keeps us from buying things that are illegal.

Freud applied these principles to crowd psychology. An individual may behave fine on his/her own. That is because the superego keeps things under control. However, when someone is part of a crowd, the superego takes a back seat. The id screams out for satisfaction. The ego decides to become a passive observer.

The result is that large crowds often behave in the same manner as a newborn. They have a common goal. The desire is to get that goal now. There is no moral compass to get in the way.

Thus we see crowds at sports stadiums react to things. The reaction is usually to a loss. Grief proceeds in a predictable pattern. There is denial, anger, bargaining, mourning and acceptance. These crowds get stuck on anger. The result is sometimes riotous in nature.

We have seen similar things over the years. The Vietnam War protests in the 1960s sometimes got out of hand. For example, at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, there was the “Battle of Michigan Avenue” between the police and protestors. The 2020 movie The Trial of the Chicago Seven depicted this.

Similar things happened at some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year. Some individuals had their id take control and rioting occurred.

It was not a huge surprise that there was similar behavior at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. If you gather a large group together in one place, the id is going to take over some of those individuals. The moral of that story is not to ask a group to gather in the first place. Then there would be no crowd for the id to take control. It does not become a problem if everyone stays home.

Human behavior is predictable. Sigmund Freud knew that. He said that 100 years ago. People insist on proving him right over and over again.

COVID update- A few weeks ago I predicted that we would see another winter season surge of new cases from December until February like we did last year. I also predicted that the peak would be lower than it was last year.

We saw a smaller surge last July. It was right after the July 4th holiday weekend. A lot of it was attributed to people having social gatherings that weekend.

However, it appears we are having another surge this July (see chart). The peak appears like it is going to be lower than last year. Even Sussex County, which has had less than 50 new cases weekly for the last month, saw an uptick to 90 new cases this week.

The number of new cases is not a surprise. The only ones left to get infected this year are the half of the population currently unvaccinated. That’s why the spike is about half of what it was last year. It is very predictable.

Much of the current surge has been attributed to the delta variant. However, it may be nothing more than a seasonal variation of the virus. Time will tell us the answer to that over the next four weeks. We will not know if it is prolonged or temporary until about mid-August.