Overcoming the Herd Mentality

Do humans move in herds like buffalo? As an educated person capable of, well, of reading this page, we like to say that we are capable of thinking and making decisions ourselves. And yet, quite often, the type of decision we make, the action we take, show that we are simply following the crowd.

Do you find yourself succumbing to peer influences in determining what you buy, what you wear, the car you drive, the type of house you live in, how you decorate your home, and how you reason?

We may say, "No, absolutely not!" We are capable of making decisions on our own, and none of our friends, or the world in general, are able to influence our choice. But is it so? Often the herd mentality creeps up on us in the most subtle way.

In this article, I want to provide you examples of herd mentality, so that you can consciously avoid it whenever the situation arise. And why should you avoid herd mentality? If you are not careful, there are people who know how to use herd mentality to manipulate you.

Herd Mentality in Appearances

  1. I saw my friend. He laughed all the way to the bank. He must be rich and happy.
  2. People who live in big houses are rich.
We have been conditioned to judge by appearance. A person who looks rich must indeed be rich. A person who laughs must be happy. But is that so? Unless we know for sure how much a person has - his net assets - we cannot conclude that he is rich. Neither can we assume a person who laughs is happy.

In the first sentence, if I asked my friend who laughed all the way to the bank, he might say, "My son has been kidnapped. I am going to the bank to draw out all my money as ransom. The kidnapper has a gun to my head and will pull the trigger if I stopped laughing." Okay, it's far fetched, but it's an example of judging by appearance. (In any case, how often do you see people laughing all the way to the bank?)

Herd Mentality in Health

  1. You're getting too fat. Eat less fatty food to lose weight.
  2. If you don't lower your cholesterol, you are going to get a heart attack soon.
At first glance, those sentences sound okay. Even your doctor may have articulated them. Take a look at the first sentence. Is it true that if you eat less fatty food, you will lose weight? Says who? You may say that studies have shown, but the response to that is, which studies? Often we (and that includes doctors who should know better) simply accept the generally accepted opinion, and repeat advices given without doing a controlled study ourselves.

The second sentence is another example. The world has bought in on the oft-repeated notion that lowering cholesterol will reduce the incidence of heart attack. But is it really so? Have you seen the studies for that? What does the graph actually show?

Herd Mentality in Life
As a person who considers a job not an essential part of living, I have come across the following examples of group think:

  1. The unemployment rate has risen.
  2. I'm doing an MBA to get a better job.
  3. He's retired.
Each of the sentences above enforces the notion that the only acceptable way to exist on this earth is to hold a job. Even as you fill up your Facebook form, it asks for your job, or the company you work for. What's wrong with that, you may say.

Some of the most exceptional people in the world do not work for any company. They own companies. So do we call them unemployed? It's true that owners of companies form a minority compared to the employees. But why should we move with the herd and accept that once we reach working age, we should get a job? Society has conditioned us to think that holding a job is normal, not having one is unacceptable.

Do not let the world condition you into accepting that the only way to live a satisfying life is through holding a job. To buy in on this would subscribe us to herd mentality in life.

Why we should overcome the herd mentality

Herd mentality can be a dangerous weapon used to manipulate us. It is most often used to influence us into taking specific action that the manipulator wants us to take. At times, it is simply to fool us, but often it can be more sinister. It preys on our greed, our insecurity, our compassion, our sense of justice and more.

How often have we received emails which we simply forward to our friends without checking the verity of the message? These are emails designed to move people as a herd in order to accomplish a desired result.

Emails to fool us.

Example: Email with photo of a child saying that the child is undergoing brain surgery. Please forward it to all your friends. Microsoft (or Google, or Apple, you name it) will donate $1 for each email forwarded. Emails that prey on our superstitious nature.

Example: This is an email of hope. Those who receives it gets a special blessing. Within 15 minutes of reading it, you must forward it to at least 7 persons, and something good will happen to you. Otherwise there will be a bad news. Emails used for character assassination.

Example 1: Email with photo of a fabulous mansion. This mansion was bought by Politician X. It's a villa in Tuscany, Italy. It is worth $50 million. It has fifty rooms and twelve bathrooms. How does Politician X get the money to buy it?

Example 2: Do not go to Doctor Y. He is a womaniser. My sister visited him yesterday. He fondled her breast. He said he was simply examining it. My sister consulted him for ache. What does that have to do with her breast. Forward this message to everyone you know. Doctor Y cannot be trusted.

When we receive an email about a public figure, or someone we are not particularly fond of, it is very easy to simply buy in on the message, and do exactly what the originator of the message expect the herd to do. We can cause a lot of hurt in repeating false accusations which we have no proof and have not verified.

Emails to smear a company's reputation. Example: Don't eat fried chicken from that famous Company Z. Here's the secret. They don't use real chicken. Company Z creates artificial chicken that have no heads, only body and wings, and they sell these fake chicken to us. If you are concerned for your health, stop eating Company Z's fried chicken.

We love being shared a secret, and we love to be the first to tell others. We often do it without checking our facts.

How do we overcome the herd mentality

Never accept anything told to us without evaluating it. Every day, we may receive via email a lot of untruths that have been dressed up to look right. But they aren't. They are designed to influence your thinking away from the truth to blindly follow them as a herd. This is most often employed by politicians and advertisers. Some times, they are the work of malicious people who want to defame their enemies. Competitors wanting to spoilt the reputation of their rivals make use of herd mentality to sway opinion.

The following are examples of herd mentality at work. You may say that you know better than that, but as I've mentioned, the herd mentality can be employed in the most subtle ways to cause you into taking specific action or to form a specific opinion to the advantage of the person who originated it.

Thank you for visiting my website, Happy Jobless Guy. I create it in November, 2007, two weeks after I left my job in the corporate sector. It is to celebrate the alternative lifestyle that I have embrace. I told myself back then, that as long as I am able to continue supporting myself, I will never return to holding a job. Well, so many years later, thanks be to God and my family, I am still happily living this alternative lifestyle.

My name is , you can call me Tim. I am a full-time website author. My main website is called Penang Travel Tips. I created it to satisfy my curiosity about places and sights around me, and it has grown to become my main income earner. To know more about me, go to www.timothytye.com.

As a Christian, I hope that through this website, I am able to deliver God's Good News to people all over the world. And finally, if you wish to contact me, please submit the contact form. Thanks again, don't forget to follow me on Facebook!

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