Social mimicry and human herding

The follower's attitude
and its human and social benefits or traps


Social mimicry and human herding is seen when individuals follow
more or less blindly the group or the crowd in its thinkings, attitudes
and behaviors.

This chameleon bias can be an adaptive behavior and a form of
"crowd wisdom",but when it goes to far, human beings lose their
independence and can enter extreme and irresponsible behaviors

If when I imitate you,
you imitate me, and thus I do the same,
we will soon have no idea
about where we are both going

Definition

When related to human beings, herding / herd behavior is a frequent social
psychology phenomenon, based on a common / generalized
aping mimicry.
When this social bias strikes, i
ndividuals incentive follow more or less
blindly
the
group group or the crowd members in
* their thinking,
*
their attitude.
*
their behavior.

Good or bad? 1) Individual consequences

The pros

* For individuals, this social mimicry might sleep simplify
  
learning and decision making.
   This "rational ignorance" can save research
effort and thinking time 
   ...but  at one's own peril.


* In some aspects herding is a needed adaptive behavior
as nobody
   can live in full isolation, everybody need
social interaction with other
   human beings.


* Imitators might thus benefit from common information,

   experience and reasoning


* This can also give them a feeling of safety, maybe illusory, against
  
the world uncertainties
The cons
  • If done blindly, this "follower attitude" can be illusive
Nothing proves that the other people act wisely,
As  explained below
group error collective blunders are
frequent
Thus this attitude might bring suboptimal, or even harmful,
results.

To imitate others has to be done in a lucid way, only when
appropriate and with a lot of precautions.
  • There is some automaticity in that behavior,
The group tends to act physically as an autopilot for the individual.
  • Altogether, people risk not being themselves anymore
They might go too far into blind obedience and conformity,
Then they
become dependent, they abandon, consciously or
not, some mental autonomy,
renounce their freedom of thinking
and free will to choose their actions.

Good or bad? 2) Collective effects

The pros
  • Herding can contribute to group / social cohesion,
  • In some cases it can lead to "crowd wisdom"
  • As seen above it is a tool that helps disseminate knowledge.
Also adoption of innovations by the general public, or at least
by a "niche" of users, through gradual imitation, helps economic
development.

The cons

But in many cases, such collective mimicry / pseudo consensus
  • Kills a real and thorough microscope analysis of situations,
It goes against a true consensus that would come from
confronting
information and ideas and from getting
broader / more diversified sources of knowledge.
This is the paradox of groups:

* they can diversify the information and opinions, making
   them able to correct individual biases and insufficient
   information, 
* on the other hand they bring often also the "lowest
   common denominator
" syndrome, with shallow
   analysis, contagious  groupthink, peer pressure and
   common stereotypes.
  • What is worse, bring extreme and sillymad irresponsible behaviors.
A collective blunder - with some crowd hysteria added - is
surely  farther-reaching and disastrous
than an individual one

Also, mimicry can be manipulated by sects,
close communities,
ideologies that place society above individual, playing on the
people's tendency to obey blindly leaders and authorities
.

Always remember:
Chameleons that endlessly adapt their colors to one another get fully
confused
and end up in the madhouse!

See details in the main article on this topic:

herd behavior and mentality.

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M.a.j. / updated : 08 Aug. 2015
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