I have always been fascinated by human-herding mentality. The question of "loyalty" to institution, or party, or brand is of deep interest to me. Now, there is some scientific evidence to back up some of my thoughts:
Scott Wiltermuth of Stanford University in California and colleagues have found that activities performed in unison, such as marching or dancing, increase loyalty to the group. "It makes us feel as though we're part of a larger entity, so we see the group's welfare as being as important as our own," he says.
Wiltermuth's team separated 96 people into four groups who performed these tasks together: listening to a song while silently mouthing the words, singing along, singing and dancing, or listening to different versions of the song so that they sang and danced out of sync. In a later game, when asked to decide whether to stick with the group or strive for personal gain, those in the non-synchronised group behaved less loyally than the rest (Psychological Science, vol 20, p 1).
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville thinks this research helps explain why fascist leaders, amongst others, use organised marching and chanting to whip crowds into a frenzy of devotion to their cause, though these tactics can be used just as well for peace, he stresses. Community dances and group singing can ease local tension, for example - a theory he plans to test experimentally (Journal of Legal Studies, DOI: 10.1086/529447).
Meanwhile, the powerful unifying effects of propaganda images are being explored by Charles Seger at Indiana University at Bloomington. His team primed students with pictures of their university - college sweatshirts or the buildings themselves - then asked how highly they scored on different emotions, such as pride or happiness. The primed students gave a strikingly similar emotional profile, in contrast with non-primed students (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2008.12.004).