Gustave Le Bon  

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"The imagination of crowds […] is particularly open to the impressions produced by images […] but it is possible to evoke them by the judicious employment of words and formulas."--The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895) by Gustave Le Bon

"The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim."--The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895) by Gustave Le Bon

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Gustave Le Bon (May 7, 1841December 13, 1931) was a social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. He was the author of several works - such as The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895) in which he expounded theories of national traits, racial superiority, herd behaviour and crowd psychology.


The ideas put forward in La psychologie des foules played an important role in the early years of group psychology: Sigmund Freud's Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse (1921; English translation Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1922) was explicitly based on a critique of Le Bon's work.

Le Bon was one of the great popularizers of theories of the unconscious at a critical moment in the formation of new theories of social action.

Wilfred Trotter, a famous surgeon at University College Hospital, London, wrote along similar lines in his famous book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, just before the outbreak of World War II; he has been referred to as 'Le Bon's popularizer in English.'

It has been argued that the fascist theories of leadership that emerged in the 1920s owed much to Le Bon's theories of crowd psychology. Indeed, Hitler's Mein Kampf drew largely on the propaganda techniques proposed in Le Bon's 1895 book.

Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, would apply the ideas of Le Bon and Trotter in the field of public relations.


  • Les Lois psychologiques de l'évolution des peuples (1894; The Psychology of Peoples),
  • La psychologie des foules (1895; English translation The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 1896),
  • L'homme et les sociétés (1881; Man and Society),
  • Psychologie du socialisme (1896; Psychology of Socialism)

See also

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