A recent mall riot in which 19 teens ranging in age from 13 to 18 were arrested for some seriously disorderly behavior made big headlines as people really wanted to know what would turn a mass of teens chilling at the mall (a decades long tradition) into a seething mob, aside from a zombie outbreak.
As it happens, the mall riot is not an outlier and not even a strange quirk of psychology. After 2011’s riots in London, researchers across the pond took a look at the behavior of the “wilding” residents involved in the mass melees, which spread across the country before police were able to quell the unrest.
What they found in their research is, essentially, that a mall riot is not strange … it’s downright predictable. As scientists examined maps of the London riots, what they observed was that it all looked very familiar, and an interesting conclusion resulted.
The Atlantic explains the mall riots discovery:
“At the time, these maps struck several researchers studying urban systems at University College London. ‘We thought, ‘this is a spatial system, and it looks a bit like something we have looked at before,’ ” says Toby Davies, one of the academics. He and his colleagues were picturing, more specifically, spatial models of how shoppers behave in search of retail.”
The mag adds:
“And this got them thinking. ‘It looks like retail,’ Davies says, ‘and retail is something we know we can model.’ Why not try to mathematically model the movement of rioters?”