Herd Mentality

© Gary Larson

“Herd mentality describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviours, follow trends, and/or purchase items,” explains the EveryTherapist.com website:

People in these herds are broken up into two groups, explains Friedrich Nietzsche, a philosopher who coined the phrase. One lended itself to the religious points of views — their beliefs and how those dictated their actions — while the other lended itself to influence by the media — based upon what others perceive as ‘right’ (following trends, social norms, etc.). Nietzsche perceived these two forms of subservience to be a weakness among the common man, and that the “Superman” as Nietzsche terms is the one who overcomes the values of the fallible herd.…

Herd mentality implies a fear-based reaction to peer pressure which makes individuals act in order to avoid feeling “left behind” from the group. Herd mentality is also sometimes known as “mob mentality.” 1, i

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“Researchers discovered that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction — and that the other 95 per cent follow without realizing it,” reports the PsychCentral.com website:

[University of Leeds Professor Jens Krause], with PhD student John Dyer, conducted a series of experiments where groups of people were asked to walk randomly around a large hall. Within the group, a select few received more detailed information about where to walk. Participants were not allowed to communicate with one another but had to stay within arms length of another person.

The findings show that in all cases, the ‘informed individuals’ were followed by others in the crowd, forming a self-organizing, snake-like structure.

“We’ve all been in situations where we get swept along by the crowd,” says Professor Krause. “But what’s interesting about this research is that our participants ended up making a consensus decision despite the fact that they weren’t allowed to talk or gesture to one another. In most cases the participants didn’t realize they were being led by others.” 2


i The white man excused his presence here by saying that he had been guided by the will of his God; and in so saying absolved himself of all responsibility for his appearance in land occupied by other men.
– Luther Standing Bear, “What the Indian Means to America,” from Land of the Spotted Eagle, 1933, in Jon E. Lewis, ed., The Mammoth Book of Native Americans, 2004, p. 349.


1 Dawn Pugh, “What is Herd Mentality and Wisdom Crowds?” EveryTherapist.com, at http://www.everytherapist.com/blog/what-is-herd-mentality-and-wisdom-crowds/ (retrieved: 11 February 2012).

2 Rick Nauert, Ph.D., “‘Herd’ Mentality Explained,” PsychCentral.com, 15 February 2008, at http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/02/15/herd-mentality-explained/1922.html (retrieved: 11 February 2012); See also: John R. G. Dyer, Christos C. Ioannou, Lesley J. Morrell, Darren P. Croft, Iain D. Couzin, Dean A. Waters, and Jens Krause, “Consensus decision making in human crowds,” Animal Behavior, 2008, 75, 461-470, at http://icouzin.princeton.edu/wp-content/plugins/bib2html/data/papers/dyer08a.pdf (retrieved: 11 February 2012).

Related video

“Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World,” Bliu Nineleven video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek5vse2_Aq0 (retrieved: 17 June 2013). (Watch it here)

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