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COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST

ARTICLE: HERD MENTALITY


When it comes to making decisions, do you trust your own instincts or do you seek advice from others and then follow what others have done? For many people, when faced with this situation, they follow the crowd. Whether this is because it is simply easier or because people tend to distrust their own instincts, ‘herd mentality’ is on the rise. What makes this behaviour difficult to resist and how does one go against this conformity to re-assert one’s own values and principles?    

Understanding Herd Mentality
Human beings are naturally gregarious, meaning that they fare best in groups and find comfort and meaning in being part of a group. There is a wonderful sense of belonging that comes with being part of ‘the herd’. People want to keep this safe feeling and find that the easiest way to fit in is to align one’s views and opinions with that of the larger group. Following the group means that individuals have the positive experience of having others agree with them, making them feel valuable and respected. Going against the group and having one’s own beliefs comes with a risk: individuals fear that they will be rejected for being different. This is reinforced by experiences of being teased or ignored for looking different or behaving differently. Many find it more pleasant all together to conform to the ideals of the group.

Why people find it easier to trust others’ judgment over their own
Many people need the support of others to feel worthwhile. They need external validation to reinforce their opinions. They think, “If others think I’m OK then I must be OK.” Some people tend to trust others’ judgment more than their own. If they admire someone then they try to be like that person, to emulate their lifestyle or opinion. People see that a person is successful and decide that the way they think must be “right”, and to be successful one must think what they think and do what they do. It takes courage and mental strength to swim against the pack, to hold fast to one’s beliefs regardless of feedback from others; some find it easier to conform.

Standing out from the crowd
Individuals need to realise that one’s opinion and ways of doing things are part of what creates uniqueness. Sometimes these may be similar to others and sometimes they might be completely different. This uniqueness is what keeps life interesting. If we all had the same opinion on everything we would never be challenged to think out the box, leading to stagnation and boredom. Just because one voices views that are different does not necessarily mean that one will be rejected. I would encourage people to test this out: if your opinion is different but you would usually go along with others, then challenge yourself to share your opinion. Be pro-active and assertive about your beliefs, while understanding that it is OK for others to think differently. You could bring something new to the table, a new idea, a new way of doing things, which may be just what your workplace or group of friends needs. You could liven things up!