The Herd Mentality

FreeImages.com/A Berg

As a rule, we, typically, tend to conform to the behavior of the majority. And this is because, our default nature drives us  to assume that the correctness of a behavior is directly proportional to the degree at which other people engage in such behavior.

During my National Youth Service in Nigeria, I read about a research that shows that – more often than not – the louder an applause, say after a drama performance, the more likely you are to join in. This  is famously dubbed the clapping contagion. And it also clearly explains the rationale behind canned laughter in comedy series, it took me ages to figure that out.

The consensus among evolutionary biologists and psychologists is that the wisdom of the populace played an imperative role in human survival, and thus explains it’s  selective pressure.

And this idea of herd mentality permeates our entire experience. For example, in most part of the world, it is popular to choose a particular professional career, because of the influence of the majority whether one is competent in the field or not.

And this reminds me of the trendy “science-class-art-class-proelior” when I was in high school in Nigeria. Where the supposedly ‘smartest’ candidates should be in the science class. Which is ridiculous.

There is a proverb among the Yorubas in West Africa which says: Ki Lamonrin se be eni, ija ni nda” (Demanding that such and such a person emulate one exactly leads to a fight).

The point being – when we employ social proof, our idiosyncratic attributes should be at the hub of our decisions.

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