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
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.
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.
Jess C. Scott, Literary Heroin (Gluttony): A Twilight Parody
“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.”
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 downJapanese 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