Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Ronald T. Wohlstein


There have been three major reviews of the field of collective behavior out of which have come a challenge for future research. In response to that challenge this thesis is the investigation of growth and dispersal patterns of one short-range non-periodic extemporaneous gathering from beginning to end.

A brief review of the literature will be presented to focus on what has been done with regard to collective behavior episodes. The research has been somewhat limited and has tended to focus on retrospective accounts rather than on-the-spot interviews and observation.

The research for this thesis was conducted on the day of the event and included on-the-spot interviews as well as film data. The event chosen was an evangelistic speaker on the campus of a mid-size midwestern university in a small community.

The event was filmed with a super-8mm camera, a 16mm camera, and a video tape in order to obtain data on growth and dispersal patterns of the gathering. Although there were several problems with the filming, enough data were obtained for my purposes.

A questionnaire was designed and administered to both assemblers and non-assemblers. Three interview teams were set up on the day of the event to conduct interviews. Although rain ended the event prematurely, sufficient data for my analysis were collected.

The results of the film records were not what I had hoped. The 16mm film was faulty and thus produced no data. The super-8mm and video tape records contained unanticipated obstructions due to camera angle changes. However, it was still possible to note gross changes in size as well as test assertions Milgram and Toch (1969) made in their classic review of the literature.

One hundred thirty persons responded to the questionnaire. The bulk of the respondents reported being present at the gathering alone. This is in contrast to previous research studies. Most persons interviewed reported stopping at the gathering. This was true whether or not the respondent was alone or had immediate commitments. Most of the assemblers classified themselves as religious.

This research did not answer all the questions with regard to the assembly process. I sought to investigate one short-range non-periodic extemporaneous gathering from beginning to end. There were several problems with this research which open questions for future studies. Had the event continued to its entirety I could have answered additional questions. Had the film records been what I expected I could have answered additional questions. These limitations suggest implications for future research.