shrine in Tokuyo
Motivational

Herd Mentality

The Honey bee is successful because it is a master of teamwork and collective decision making. They use their communication system to allow good decisions to spread and diminish information that is unhelpful.

Joanne Reed
bee

According to Author Joanne Reed, humans in a group, are influenced by what the majority of others are thinking, or doing, a similar thought, or thing, rather than the message, a type of herd mentality. When there is uncertainty in the environment surrounding a decision, she notes that people tend to feel safer, ‘siding with the crowd,’ rather than going it alone, even if that decision might be a bad one. Yet we are alert to bad news, it garners our attention, more so than good news.

Social Experiment on Herd Mentality

Citing a social experiment using slot machines and payouts, Joanne Reed talks about how people tended to follow the choice of the majority, once they had learned a particular slot machine paid out, more often than the rest. When the winning slot machine was changed, they stuck with playing that same machine even after it no longer paid out.

When uncertainty increased, players apparently took even longer to break away from conformant behavior.”

authorjoannereed.net

Many marketing techniques exploit this tendency in human nature. Just this week, I saw a video advertisement for an online program designed to teach you “Secret Ways to Boost Sales,” (of one’s art products). The message was clear – You would be foolish to pass this opportunity by, as everyone, yes, everyone, is doing this and everyone, is increasing their sales exponentially.

Really?

Everyone?


Social Media and advertising plays around with this herd mentality and our decisions as a consumer. We seem more inclined to trust a beauty or personal product if it is endorsed by a particular celebrity, or professional. Products that receive a gazillion ‘likes,’ or positive reviews, appear to be seen as trustworthy and reliable, than those with a mere one-star rating.

Where am I


“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.”

Jess C. Scott, Literary Heroin (Gluttony): A Twilight Parody

Some are tempted to follow blogs or social media accounts with large followings, based on the quality of the site’s content, or the curiosity to check out what all the ‘hype,’ is about? These folks might think there is a very good reason people view them and they want to know too, right?

In smaller groups or where there was a less challenging task to undertake, people seem more comfortable pursuing, or willing to explore, less popular or divergent decisions. But this feeling of certainty and penchant for safety in numbers, that draws us to side with the crowd – where has it come from? George Patton appeared to value divergent thinking.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

George S. Patton on authorjoannereed.net

Given that bees are highly successful using collective communication methods, it is interesting that we have been successful despite our tendencies towards herd decision making. Some research suggests that we have been successful, not just because we were a co-operative species, but because we have been friendly. People are more likely to work cooperatively, if their colleagues are friendly.

Some folks might be more inclined to join a protest rally when their friends were doing it, or it seemed the right thing to do because there is a subconscious message as everyone is doing it? Would they still join the protest on belief in the cause, alone?

The nail that sticks up, will be hammered down

Japanese Proverb

Food for Thought

Does this have implications in what we see in today’s society? Or how future societies might be?

Are we just as guilty of herd decision-making, if we side with the majority of a team in a workplace?

How influenced are you by the herd?

Do you listen to divergent opinions?

Something to Ponder About




47 thoughts on “Herd Mentality”

  1. This really struck a chord with me Amanda. I’m not a great follower when it comes to following herd mentality, and often find myself the subject of scorn when I play the Devils advocate. Currently I’m finding myself the subject of extreme wrath by not getting on the ‘let’s all hate China’ band wagon. I’m definitely standing out from the herd and my opinions (most times only offered as part of a discussion already taking place) are most certainly in the extreme minority. And as far as the current plans to expand our military, I’m gathering, to try to take on China if the need arises, well I just find that so laughable. If China decides to take us over, they’re going to take us over. And quite honestly, I’d rather have China on our side than the USA if Trumps at the helm. Trump may not be the most dangerous man on this earth, but he’s up there with the best of them.(and now I’ll get off my soap-box).

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    1. This is a perfect example of herd mentaility at work, Chris. Like you, I often think a little differently to others and getting that opinion across to a group is difficult. I used to think it was because I had a soft voice or that what I said didn’t have currency, but now I think it may have been the silent pressure of the majority. My daughter says a similar thing: no one listens to me, (my opinions) when speaking of her friends. I remember you having what some people in your part of the world might think was a ultra progressive attitude towards minorities – I prefer to call it enlightened, so please stay on your soap box. If we don’t have opinions that are diverse, how in the world will we ever problem solve efficiently.
      The defense against China reminds me of some small countries trying to defend themselves against the Nazi war machine with cannons from the 19th century! China has other way of infiltrating and dominating another country – ways that the military cannot stop.

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  2. I try not to be! Luckily I’m past the age of trying to impress peers now and love alternative thoughts. It’s known as Groupthink in the psychological world. It’s important to be critical of everything and even more so in the age of misinformation and social media.

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    1. I do agree we need to maintain a critical eye even if, at the end of the day, the group decision is the best. Groupthink/Herd mentality/sheeple/following the crowd/safety in numbers – it is all the same thinking isn’t it? Does it come from a fear of being wrong, of being unaccepted? The odd one out, Lingo in Transit?

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      1. Yes, all the same way of thinking. Perhaps it stems from our primitive roots and safety in numbers. Straying from the pack can be life endangering so it is both out of fear of being unaccepted and the odd one out.

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  3. Great thoughts…got me thinking which herd mentality is being followed at this time and the differences we’re seeing in different countries on how things are being handled and improvements that are happening or not happening. Definitely things to think about!

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    1. It is an interesting phenomenon for sure, Linda. It might explain a lot of activities we see around us, and that is why it was so revelatory to me. Human behaviour is often explainable, with many variations of course. Do you think if we do have an awareness of this, it is a start to addressing and combating it? Promoting divergent thinking perhaps?

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  4. Great post, Amanda. I’ve done a lot of reading on herd mentality and how advertisers know how to suck us in. It’s almost like hypnosis. I’ve never been a follower even in school. Always being the odd man out wasn’t fun but my ideas felt right compared to the rest of the world. I’ve watched herd mentality and it’s really boring. 😉 Have a great week.

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    1. Herd mentality could be seen as boring! There is nothing original about siding with the crowd. In a healthy society, we do need ideas, and sometimes the odd thoughts and ideas are the ones that lead to the greatest change. I do think there are a lot of people who feel like the ‘odd man out,’ but just as many sit there without saying anything much at all and keep their divergent ideas under wraps. I am not sure I can keep my mouth shut for too long….

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  5. I like listening to people who stand apart from the crowd, for it is all too easy to give into the herd mentality, because as you point out, it is a kind of conditioning. I think social media today for the most part, the bizarre “cancel culture” and the like, are great examples of people giving into the trap of herd mentality. It makes me yawn! Anyway, Patton says it all in that pithy quote of his. x

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  6. Pithy Quote by Patton, indeed, Ar. I am not familiar with the term,’cancel culture,’ so I just looked it up on Urban Dictionary. I was a bit shocked to think folks would get a feeling of revenge or satisfaction by deliberating “sicking” others to villiify the individual that outed them as wrong – these are narcissist tendencies. It makes me wonder if some kind of lessons/role modelling could be incorporated in to primary classes to show that being wrong can be a good thing so just own our mistakes so that we can learn and move forward from them? No searching for blame, finger pointing, or defensive retribution.

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    1. It is shocking, is it not? I am amused and appalled simultaneously, by how folks find new ways of pulling each other down. Yes, we talk about flaws being inherent in humans, yet when it comes to it, we are quick to judge others and visit vengeance upon them if they do not agree with our point of view. It is thought provoking. You offer a sensible solution, I must say. We can only hope to look after our own reactions, I suppose, at the end of the day.

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        1. I thought something must have happened, so I also re-followed your blog. I think sometimes blog subscriptions fall off the reader list too and I need to click follow again. Glad I found you and caught up with some of the missing posts.

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              1. That is what I suspected when I read up about it. Lots of comments of people struggling a bit managing their sites. After hearing you say this, I will definitely stick with wordpress.

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      1. Looking after our own reactions, staying in the present moment and not making too much in the way of comparisons with others, is definitely a prescription with more contentment in our own heads, Arundhati. As you quite rightly point out, why visit vengeance upon another for thinking differently? Why judge them for thinking? We haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. If they hold an opinion, that is seen as disliked or detested by us, will they change it merely because of what we say or do? It takes time and emotional changes and maturity in the person themselves. The information can be presented to them, as our opinion alone, but we cannot CHANGE another person or MAKE them believe differently, even though we might all like to do so.

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  7. Great post. It was interesting you started with the bees, a while back we had so many bees & they seemed to be panicking there would be 4 or 5 bees trying to collect pollen from one flower in pockets all over the garden, they were frantic & then 2 weeks later, no bees & then the catastrophic fires hit. Now that’s a herd I would follow…
    I don’t consider myself a herd person, lol. I don’t like to judge, if people want to do something a certain way who am I to tell them otherwise, only by suggestion or example do I ever suggest something. the exception being a young man having car trouble, took his shirt off to lean over & open the radiator cap, which was already steaming like a forgotten kettle, I ran to him, before he ended up with 3rd degree burns all over his face, we had a basic car maintenance lesson in the car park at woolies.lol.
    I am a bit of an introvert though, lol. I don’t have face book, twitter, Instagram or whatever else is out there, blogging is my only on line social site. As for the news & what it has to say I don’t watch it, our tv only gets Netflix & you tube. I have a couple of friends whom have tried to tell me what I should & shouldn’t be doing, they no longer try, as my life works for me. We are of course the greatest of friends that is the herd I look for, great friends wonderful family & filling our joy cup.

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    1. “..the greatest of friends that is the herd I look for, great friends wonderful family & filling our joy cup.” I could not have said it better, Linda and I admire your tenacity for sticking to what you feel is right and works for you. Also for speaking up when it involves safety – like the young man with the radiator cap.
      Interesting that the bees disapppeared. LIke the ants know that rain is coming, I wonder if the bees had an idea….

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    1. Good for you, Alison! I like your attitude. It makes for a diverse and balanced community! Do you feel that people are not always inclined to listen to an opinion that is radically different?

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        1. New information presented logically and altruistically can always change one’s attitude towards something. No one can know everything about a topic, even though some claim to do so. We never stop learning.

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  8. Herd mentality is so prevalent. If one mostly follows a person one then only believes all good about that person or if you are anti you follow all media that says he’s bad.. I cannot believe everything anti person A is true and everything pro person B is true.. We don’t discern enough!!

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    1. You seem to have developed a more balanced view, taking each viewpoint on its own merit and not “kitchen sinking,” the whole person. We cannot possibly know every reason why a person says or does the things that they do, yet we might sometimes judge them on a single comment or action.

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  9. G day mate 🙂 Really enjoyed this post, it´s a topic that´s dear to my heart that you are bringing up here. I have always (I think) had an aversion towards big groups and group-dynamics, even though that has made me feel alienated at times, I guess I value freedom way more than the “safety in numbers” thing, and I prefer relating to people one on one, or in very small groups… Its so important to learn to think for oneself AND to learn to question one´s own thoughts as well as other people´s beliefs. So often, charismatic people manage to convince others that their beliefs are the “truth”, because critical thinking skills are not encouraged enough… Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Amanda! Have a great weekend 🙂

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  10. Diversity in thought, beliefs, actions– and the posted subject matters of bloggers. All part of the freedom that works for me– my choice to show partial/whole/or no interest. Have a wonderful day, Amanda.
    Art

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  11. It seems there is an inverse relationship between the more important it is to speak up against a widely held view, the less it occurs, and vice-versa. I tend to fit in the camp that overthinks everything. In other words, I’m a real pain the backside.

    It is a worthwhile discussion, Amanda, because I think the psychology of crafting an appropriate response to pandemic in Australia has been overlooked.

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