Collective mental state

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Mental state is generally a literary or legal term, and is only used in psychiatry or psychology as the mental state examination, where it refers to the condition of someone's mind. Here there is an assessment of thought processes, memory, mood, cognitive state, and energy level. Where a mental state is shared by a large proportion of the members of a group or society, it can be called a collective mental state. Gustave Le Bon proposed that mental states are passed by contagion, while Sigmund Freud wrote of war fever in his work Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1922), a perfect example of the collective mental state. Franz Borkenau wrote of collective madness, while many writers have discussed collective depression. Psychosis can be passed from one individual to another as induced psychosis or folie a deux, but rarely involves more than two people. Where the mental state involves a large population, it is more appropriate to use plain English rather than psychiatric or psychological terminology.

See also[edit]


  • Borkenau, Franz, 1981. End and Beginning, On the Generations of Cultures and the Origins of the West. (ed. and intro. by Richard Lowenthal). New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Freud, Sigmund, 1955. Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works. In Standard Edition, XVIII (1920–1922). London: Hogarth.
  • Le Bon, Gustave, 1960. (First Published 1895). The Mind of the Crowd. New York: Viking.
  • Puri, B.K., Laking, P.J. and Teasaden, I.H., 1996. Textbook of Psychiatry. Edinburgh, London, New York, Philadelphia, Sydney, St Louis, Toronto: Churchill Livingstone.