So I was playing the herd mentality game with my siblings. It’s Isaac’s turn to show his card. Then he asked ‘’What is the definition of herd mentality?”. Well, the game itself rewards a point to people who have the same guess on their cards but in real life, it is not always the same.
Herd mentality refers to a proneness of people in a group, crowd, or society to think, behave or act in a way that conforms with others in the same group rather than as individuals.
Our parents may not have known the term that described what they often cautioned us from whenever they reminded us to avoid being victims of peer pressure. It was always herd mentality they meant.
Synonymously, it’s called a mob or pack mentality. The term herd mentality comes from sheep. Sheep always move in a group called a herd. A sheep never moves alone or acts on its own. It follows where other sheep are going or what they are doing.
Due to the brain’s natural desire for synchronicity and people’s fear of missing out, we often find ourselves doing what others are doing for reasons I will mention later.
Human beings are social animals which in times of uncertainty become afraid so they rely on others for guidance.
If you always follow the crowd, you have a herd mentality. If you always rely on your opinion, then you are a lone wolf. A lone wolf is a person who considers his independent opinion first before the crowd or mob.
We most times love to believe that we are independent when in reality we are acting or thinking out of influence. It takes self-awareness and individualized thinking to be a lone wolf.
Examples of a herd mentality.
The George Floyd I can’t breathe protest. Amidst the pandemic, George Floyd was killed by a racist cop. A couple of people mostly blacks hit the streets to protest against the unfair treatment of blacks in America.
The small numbers protesting gradually attracted large crowds in the US and across the globe. Whites, browns, and blacks all stood up. Those that could not initially speak out against it got influenced to do it. In this case, herd mentality served humanity well.
The trump herd mentality on capitol hill. When supporters of Donald trump evaded Capitol Hill and vandalized it, they were following the crowd. As individuals, they wouldn’t do it. But in a crowd and masked up, they felt deindividualized and in case of consequences, they would bare them as a crowd, not as individuals which somehow makes them individually insignificant.
The same applies to the groups of bullies in schools. The crowd influence makes them do things they wouldn’t do themselves.
The Full bus Trick. In Uganda where I come from, there are public transport buses that take people upcountry at a charge. Because they usually take long to get full so they can set off, some passengers hesitate to board them and look for those that are almost full. What bus fare collectors do, they pay a few people to occupy the sits to trick travelers to believe that the bus is almost full. Once the passengers are aboard, the other men get out of the bus so their sits can be occupied too. The lone wolf would ask if the guys in the bus are really passengers or not. The herd mentality usually just enters the bus.
Causes of herd mentality and why people follow the crowd
Uncertainty or ignorance.
When people get in situations where they are clueless about what to do or say. They will lookout to see what others are doing so they can copy them.
The fear to be different or perceived as unique makes people conform to the norms so they can fit in and not be at risk of ostracization.
Lack of self-awareness.
Many people have little to no knowledge of who they are so they become vulnerable to being a product of groups, their peers, or society. Because they identify themselves by the crowd, peer group, or society they disregard their opinions and trust that of others.
Fear of missing out.
Black Friday is the typical description of the fear of missing out. When people see others rushing to pick out something cheap on black Friday they assume that they will miss out if they don’t follow them. They then check their bank balance or wallet to see if the money they have can buy them something.
Lack of self-trust.
Inability to trust our decision-making abilities sometimes pushes us to follow the crowd. We assume that everyone else knows something we do not know so we choose to trust the crowd instead of ourselves. When we were still in schools at some point a confident student stood up and gave a wrong answer and we believed him because of how his confidence made us believe him. Then we would distrust the doubtful kid with a correct answer.
Benefits of a herd mentality.
Well to give you constant benefits of following the crowd, I would be more subjective than objective. The benefit is usually attained after following the mob. Take for instance. If you are a gambler and I tell you to bet on the horse or football team everyone is expecting to win, you will have benefited if the results came out as expected.
If you reject my advice and instead bet on a different horse or team that ends up not winning then you would hate to become a lone wolf. If the expected team lost then you would see it as advantageous not to follow the crowd.
To always benefit from a herd mentality, you need to be able to think from within. That means thinking without any external influence but from your wisdom, knowledge, conscious and gut feeling.
Dangers of a herd mentality
The dangers of herd behavior or a herd mentality are most times more compared to benefits. We are different individuals that have different goals, personalities, dreams, goals, and tastes. If we choose to go with the crowd we most times end up forgetting or neglecting the most important person. That person is YOU.
Inability to think.
Individual or free thought enables us to think according to our consciousness and heart. If you often follow the crowd, it means you rarely exercise that power which is a prerequisite to shaping and creating the life you desire deep down in your heart.
People with a herd mentality always lookout to see what others are doing right or wrong. Unable to rely on themselves, their self-reliance falls to a low or zero. So they always rely on others which makes them vulnerable to things, people, and situations that are not in line with their conscious.
Lack of self-awareness.
How can you become the person you dream to become if you do not know who you are in the first place. People with a herd mentality are everything about the crowd but themselves. They are unaware of their triggers, their passions, their thought patterns, etc. Because most of what they do is influenced by the crowd.
Lack of personal boundaries.
As the lone wolf understands that what the crowd is doing is contrary to his personal values then goes on to restrain from following it, the herd mentality individual follows regardless. Due to the desire to be accepted and fear of rejection.
Why you should always be a lone wolf.
To be a lone wolf does not mean doing the opposite of what the crowd is doing. I promise thousands of lone wolves joined the ‘’I can’t breathe protest’’. It is not that they had a herd mentality. No. They just agreed to the need to fight for social justice and call for action against unfair treatment of blacks by the police.
To be a lone wolf means being able to stand a distance from the crowd and weigh the outcomes of conforming with the crowd with nonconformity. Being able to question whether what the crowd is doing or saying is in line with your beliefs, faith, values, or benefits you.
Like a lone wolf, you can choose to follow the crowd only when it’s in line with your independent thought. If it isn’t, you do what your conscious tells you. This will give you the following benefit.
A settled and fulfilled soul.
You become the unique person you are supposed to be.
You will chase your dreams not other people’s dreams.
You will develop self-belief and self-trust.
Most of the time, in fact, 90% of the time, the crowd is biased by emotions which saves you from falling victim to unfounded biases.
When you stick to being yourself, people accept you and love you for who you are.
In conclusion, being able to separate ourselves from the crowd can give us an advantage over many people in the crowd. When you separate yourself from the crowd, you give yourself time to research and make an informed decision. And most of the time it is that unique decision we make or lone journey we walk that makes us achieve things people in the crowd only dream of. Warren Buffet said, ‘’Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful’’. The people that bought stocks when everyone was selling in the 2008 global financial crisis went on to become millionaires. You may not always be right but if you keep trusting yourself instead of the crowd, you will enjoy life without regrets.