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October 2021

Psychiatry. 1980 Feb; 43(1): 78-88.

The sociocultural dynamics of mass hysteria: a case study of social conflict in West Malaysia.

Lee RL, Ackerman SE.

This discussion of an episode of mass hysteria in a Malay college in West Malaysia examines stress and conflict in relation to the interpretive process within a specific social setting. Unlike previous studies, which conceptualize mass hysteria as a cathartic response to accumulated stress, the present study treats stress as a matter of definition in a specific sociocultural context rather than as an objective given from which predictions can be made. Objections are raised to the logic of explanations that attribute mass hysteria to environmental stress. What is of concern is how meanings are assigned to events that are experienced as stressful, how participants and observers explain these events, and the consequences that follow from their interpretations.

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