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Psychologist examines the mindset of the violent mob that breached Capitol

Posted at 7:31 AM, Jan 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 07:31:12-05

A psychologist is exploring the goals, mindset, and motivation of the violent mob in wake of Wednesday events in Washington.

Michigan State University assistant professor of psychology Dr. Mark Brandt said regardless of a protest's goals or the ideology of the people there, there are certain commonalities that participants share.

Brandt said people who were there exhibited traits of any large protest movement. In addition to having a strong group identity, he said people who traveled by bus and spent money on hotels were likely confident they would change something.

“They tend to have the belief that the protest will be effective in some way," he said. In this case, changing the outcome of an already certified election.

“People who engage with protest typically have really strong emotions, particularly, negative emotions like moral outrage and anger," Brandt said.

He said this is the case, regardless of a group's message.

President Donald Trump, whose latest video on Twitter condemns Wednesday's violence, urges calm, and promises a smooth transition of power, exhibited a different tone with his supporters two days ago.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness," he said at the rally before the crowd moved to the Capitol. "You have to show strength."

Brandt said the crowd heard this message: “'Hey, go and attack, fight for what we believe in.' People take those words literally. They look to their leaders for this kind of guidance and they take that guidance," he added.

We've also seen lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say Trump's rhetoric is directly to blame for Wednesday's events, despite later tweet statements from the White House.

Police have now made 80 arrests and several of them are from Michigan. Federal investigators are looking to identify those who chose to vandalize, loot and storm the U.S. Capitol.