Herd behavior, herd instinct

Following the crowd and obeying the group

Individuals tend to mimic and follow the group or the crowd opinions
and behaviors.
This leads to a comparison with what drives the behaviors of animal

This behavioral effect is in some ways efficient, but also dangerous
as groups can be wrong and tend to make the individual lose its

Puppets on crowd strings

When applied to human beings, herd behavior / herding is a
phenomenon that is well known in social psychology :

* in which a mass of people behave like one single entity

* and which is caused by a herd mentality.

You might say that the double fact that people influence one another
and that mentalities influence behaviors is not a big discovery.

OK, but the above link explains a little more :-)

To be more precise, herding is a type of mimicry that goes further
than the
aping imitation of an individual by another one.

=> It makes individuals follow rather blindly the behavior
      of a group or a crowd (or obey its charismatic leader)

There is a normal interdependence between people and
society, they evolved together and the symbiosis was
But when somebody becomes a pawn of society or of a
group, there is a problem.

The process

Herding happens when the group or the crowd creates a fascination on
individuals, which:
  • On the mental level,
overrides their free will and make them lose a part of
their personality.
  • On the practical level;
let the crowd pull their strings and become their

Its causes

To sum it up, individuals abandon to the group a small or large part of
their independence of thinking, decision and behavior
just because
many of them cannot stand to feel alone.
More generally, human beings cannot live without interrelating with

Also, groups and societies become entities by themselves, acquiring
their own life, they are
dynamical systems with emerging trait that
might override those of their members.

More specifically:
  • People tend to  feel feeling comfort and safety...
...within a group.
This inner feeling, that also explain empathy, a human virtue,
could go back to the old time when to move in herds was a
defense of
individuals against predators, or a way to do things
together to face
the cruelty of nature.

This is not irrational. N
obody, except maybe a few hermits,
cannot live without
network interrelating with others.
This feelings gets abusive only
when the individual becomes
a pawn.
  • And / or feel that the general opinions avoid them the pain of doubt
It offers a common understanding, albeit stereotyped, of the
uncertain world around.
There is some mental laziness involved also.
Well, if so many
people see
things this way, there must some truth here, so why
disturb our
brain to reinvent the wheel ?
  • And / or their social learning made them prone to the comfort 
          of mimicry.
  • And / or they fear to be seen as dissidents by other group
This shows some dependence tyranny of the majority.
This attitude can even evolve into an escalation in which every individual
wants to show that it is even more radical than the majority...

An added pressure is often maintained by one or several leaders who in
some way personify the group.
Here there is a mental junction between conformity (with the peers) and
(to leadership)

Its consequences

This bias for conformity can help bring some social cohesion, avoiding that
people spend their time behaving against one another.

But it can also lead to collective blunders because of an usual lack of a
true exchange of contradictory opinions
. Some disssidence might
help to dig dipper when facing some crucial issues.

When the consensus gets emotional - and the group becomes
hysterical behaviors might surge; Antagonist extremist
groups, every one following blindly its own creed hate one another
(xenophobia, racism, sectarism, religious or ideological fundamentalism...)

For more details

The details are found in the main article on the topic:
herd behavior / mentality

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M.a.j. / updated : 16Sept. 2015
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