What You Need to Know About Herd Mentality

Updated on July 13, 2018
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker has known many people in life whose behaviors have caused unnecessary problems and wants to help them.

Herd mentality is a behavior pattern in human beings that either benefits or harms them, depending on how they choose to use it.

You’ve seen what happens when a person stands on a street corner and starts looking up. Before long, everybody around him is doing the same thing. This is a simple example of herd mentality that is basically harmless but begs the question “Why?”.

In this case, people may start looking up because they

  • wonder what the others are seeing,
  • fear what might happen if they don't also look up,
  • feel that others may think them “odd” if they don't join the crowd or
  • simply want to be part of the group.

This type of behavior begins when children are very young and becomes increasingly complex as they age.

It is very powerful and often causes individuals to do things they may not want to do or may not believe in. However, they do them anyhow because to do otherwise may exclude them from their group.

Information that will help you to understand and deal with herd mentality should you ever be faced with it.
Information that will help you to understand and deal with herd mentality should you ever be faced with it. | Source

The Good Side of Herding

If someone aligns himself with a group that is hard working, has excellent values and has meaningful goals in life, the herding instinct can be extremely beneficial.

If everybody you know does well financially, lives in a nice home and takes great vacations, they inspire you to try to do the same. You often will.

The reason for this is that you like the group you’re in, are benefiting from being a member and don’t want to be left out of it.

Thus, even though it may be more difficult for you or require more sacrifices than you would like to make, you continue to strive and achieve, which is a very good thing for you to be doing.

The Bad Side of Herding

On the other hand, if you become part of a group that has little respect for others, bullies non members and participates in negative behaviors, the only good things you’ll get out of herding with them is acceptance, companionship and a certain level of security.

For many, these things make putting themselves at risk worthwhile, but often leads to problems.

Thousands of people joined Hitler's herd. Some did it because their own hatreds were the same as his, but others did so because they were afraid that if they didn't, they, too, would be tortured and slaughtered.

Many in this second group violated their own values and did things they never normally would have dreamed of doing, but for them, survival and safety were more important than the things they had been led to believe.

Are You In a Herd?

The two examples I just noted are simple and clear cut, but most herding mentalities are much more complicated and difficult to identify.

You may be herding right now and not even know that you are!

Look at your friends and think about these things:

  • Do you like dressing in similar ways?
  • Do you eat in the same types of restaurants?
  • Are your political views similar?
  • Are your spending habits similar?
  • How big are your age differences?
  • Do you earn similar amounts of money?
  • Are you the same religion?

These and similar questions will tell you if, in fact, you are as much of an individual as you think you are, or whether you have a bit of a herding mentality that may either be enhancing or detracting from the quality of your life.

  • If your life is better as a result of your relationships, great.
  • If not, perhaps it’s time to find a herd that is more in line with your value system.

Senior Citizen Herds

You may think that herding (sometimes considered to be a form of peer pressure) only happens in younger generations, but the truth is that it exists in every age group

When it is positive in senior citizen herds, it can be a gift that provides comfort, help and a feeling of belonging that alleviates issues such as depression and loneliness.

However, when groups of similar ilk become vindictive, malicious or bullying, those on the receiving end of these behaviors can suffer from financial losses, isolation and depression.

For example, in over 55 condominiums residents often volunteer to work on social committees, help with shopping and do other similar tasks. They do these things to fill their time, but also to garner favor with board members.

However, when a board goes rogue and begins to use the power given to it by these supporters, these residents only have two choices:

  1. stay in the board's herd and behave in ways that go against their values or
  2. leave it and become ostracized and isolated.

If they stay they are forced to bully and alienate those who are not part of the support group. If they leave, they become a threat to the group and thus are ignored and shunned.

The people they thought were their friends no longer have relationships with them, and the people they previously treated poorly don’t want to be involved with them either.

They get caught in a vicious circle from which they cannot extricate themselves unless they are able to start a herd of their own or move!

A Real Life Example

This situation can get so bad for herd members that they will be driven to make decisions that are not in their best interests.

For example, in one condo community, the board of directors decided to replace all of the roofs, even though many did not need to be replaced.

They also wanted to complete this project over a period of months, rather than years, even though they did not have the money to do so. This meant that residents would have to pay a huge amount of money for the project.

Most of the people in the herd supported the board members because even though they knew that they might lose their homes to foreclosure by doing so, they could not tolerate the social isolation that would come to them by being removed from the herd.

However, many in the community did not support the roofing proposal.

This second group started their own herd and shared with other residents how the board was manipulating them and how much the project would cost them.

Now the original herd was not just manipulating random individuals, but rather an entire group of people who opposed them. This changed everything, and although the second herd was unable to totally protect itself financially, it still was able to mitigate the project costs.

There is power in numbers, which is one of the basic reasons that herds do so well!

How to Beat the Herd

Those who want to live and work comfortably must learn to be observant so that they can see who members of various herds are.

Once they know this information, they can use this information to their best benefit.

By drawing vectors (overlapping circles), you can see, for example, who is

  • carpooling,
  • favored by the boss,
  • eating lunch together,
  • chatting by the coffee machine and

doing other activities that make it clear about who they “hang” with and who among them might be good (or bad) to know.

Herding mentalities often judge you by the associations you belong to, your politics, the way you dress and act and your friendships.

These are the things that they use to decide whether they want you to join their group or not, but you can do the same.

If you use this type of information to choose your herd carefully, you can beat negative herds every time at their own games.

Don’t Let the Herd Manipulate You

It is common knowledge that a lone buffalo will break through a fence just so that he can be with a herd of cattle.

This shows you the power that the desire to belong has over people.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to join others, but in doing so, you always need to be vigilant because when the herding mentality becomes too strong, people can get hurt.

Now you know how to make sure you’re that not one of them

Have you ever been part of a herd?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Sondra Rochelle

    Comments

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    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      2 months ago from USA

      Venkatachan M. I am like you, but I always manage to have a few friends that also don't run in groups, so it works out for me. I'd rather stay away from the herds...too much stress!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      2 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting and informative article. I have seen this herd mentality often during my life. But, I do not belong to the herd. I live aloof from groups trying to maintain equal relations with all. But, it does not work beneficially. Such person becomes alienated from groups even though not boycotted entirely. I get on anyhow.

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      2 months ago from USA

      Natalie Frank: Herding is extremely prevalent in older people, especially those who live in senior communities. It is a very serious problems that can negatively affect the quality of life and even ruin the golden years.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      This is an interesting article - I've never thought of herds in terms of older people. It's a good point to raise and something many articles on herd behavior and conformity don't address. Thanks for making me think.

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      2 months ago from USA

      Mary Wickison: Me, too! I've never been a joiner and I really resent groups that pressure or shun people who don't agree with them. It's not right. As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather be alone than have to tolerate such disgusting behavior!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 months ago from Brazil

      The older I get the less 'nonsense' I will tolerate. That said, I am not in a herd but miss being around people. You have to be strong to stand up, especially against a herd and say, "No I don't agree" or "this isn't right for me". You risk being ousted and shunned.

      It seems people nowadays have lost the ability to listen to another viewpoint and refuse to debate an issue.

      Thanks for sharing your condo experience.

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      2 months ago from USA

      Joyette Fabien: Same here. I guess I never wanted other people dictating how I should look or behave!

    • Joyette  Fabien profile image

      Joyette Fabien 

      2 months ago from Dominica

      Great article! Your information is novel, interesting and well presented. It is really interesting to learn about this condition whose effects can be just as beneficial as it can be destructive.

      Well I did the self questioning and it appears that I am not part of a herd, which was not surprising because I have always been something of a loner.

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