The War of the Worlds Broadcast
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Mass Hysteria

Woman screaming (image from clipart)

The War of the Worlds hoax was effective at fooling audiences because it created mass hysteria.

Mass hysteria, also known as collective delusions, is defined as "the spontaneous, rapid spread of false or exaggerated beliefs within a population at large, temporarily affecting a particular region, culture or country."(8)

The type of hysteria that occurred with The War of The Worlds broadcast is called anxiety hysteria. This phenomenon is triggered by a person's perception of a threatening force and usually only lasts about a day.(8)

Many factors contribute to mass hysteria and collective delusions:

  • "The mass media"
  • "Rumors"
  • "Extraordinary anxiety or excitement"
  • "Cultural beliefs and stereotypes"
  • "The social and political context"
  • "Reinforcing actions by authorities, such as the police or military"(8)


  • Learn about the role of radio in the 1930s
    Woman screaming
    Learn about the performers' use of real names and places
    Learn about the performers' use of news bulletins
    Learn about the war anxiety of Americans at the time of the broadcast