How To Avoid Herd Mentality

How To Stay Far From The Madding Crowd

How To Avoid Herd Mentality - How To Stay Far From The Madding Crowd. Image of blindfolded businessmen walking off a cliff like lemmings.

What Is Herd Mentality?

Herd mentality describes how we make decisions based on what everyone else is thinking and doing. It is also known as a mob or crowd mentality.

It can be found throughout society in many different contexts. It is well known in the world of investment where investors buy a particular stock because everyone is doing it.  It affects our purchasing decisions about buying the latest fad or trend in clothes, food or entertainment.

  • We wear a certain style of clothing as we see others adopting the same fashions.
  • Purchasing decisions on diets are often influenced by the latest fad diet that so many other people are using.
  • Our choices of music are often influenced by the knowledge that more and more other people are listening to a particular artist.

We are motivated by a fear of missing out [FOMO]. 

Sugar shortages and panic buying of toilet paper

Very early in my business career I had a stint as a trainee supermarket manager. During that time there was a sugar shortage. Shoppers were going crazy every time we pulled another pallet out onto the shop floor. I can recall seeing groups of middle-aged housewives behaving like they were the front row in a rugby scrum! 

It was absolutely ridiculous.

I remember getting back to my digs after work and getting nagged by my landlady because I hadn't brought her any sugar. Then  she showed me her stash of sugar hidden in a large closet. She had a vast amount of sugar in there - probably about half a ton!

More recently, here in the UK, when the pandemic commenced there was a surge of buying of toilet paper. I have no idea why. I don't think anyone knew why. It was just panic buying. I recall seeing people in supermarket car parks with trolleys loaded up with toilet paper.

It was insane!

In both these instances it was a classic case of fear of missing out.

Social media and the bandwagon effect

Currently, herd mentality is prevalent in the world of ideas shared on line. Typical subjects are based around political correctness, woke-thinking, diversity issues, with catchy slogans such as "Me Too" and "Taking The Knee" and for those who publicly differ in their opinions falling foul of the "cancel culture".

Many of us are are living in echo chambers, driven by algorithms, that we have built around ourselves and we accept ideas that on the surface sound right to us without subjecting them to challenge or scrutiny.

We find it easier to go with the flow rather than taking the time do our own research and making an independent judgement.

We get caught up in the bandwagon effect.

    We follow the herd - and often without realizing it - we mimic other people's choices.

    When we are uncertain about what's normal, we trust what others are doing as the most appropriate thing to do.

    We follow others when we are self conscious and want to fit it.

Why Are You So Susceptible To Herd Mentality?

The desire to conform

We are susceptible to herd mentality because we want to fit in and be accepted, and so we follow the norm.

We have a strong desire to conform

In the 1950's researcher Soloman Ash conducted a series of experiments which revealed the extent to which our opinions are influenced by the groups to which we belong and the results suggested than conformity increases when:

  • More people are present
  • The task becomes more difficult.
  • Other members of the group are of a higher [perceived] social status

We are hardwired to conform

More recent research suggests that we are hardwired to conform. This is not surprising given that we have the ingrained mentality of our stone-age ancestors from the Savannah Plain 200,000 years ago, and where conformity and "pack mentality" would have been a survival skill.

    We're impressionable and more likely to simply accept what's presented to us than chart our own course.

    We take the line of least resistance. Its easier to stay with bad but familiar options than decide on a better new one.

When is Herd Mentality A Good Thing?

2 scenarios where following the herd  can be a useful and constructive approach

In my experience there are 2 scenarios where following the herd  can be a useful and constructive approach:

[1] When there is, what appears to be, an immediate threat to personal safety.

If I saw a crowd running towards me on the sea-front near where I live, and that crowd was fearful and running from some real or imagined threat, I would run with them.

Fortunately, living where I do, this is unlikely and this is why I would follow the herd if it ever did happen.

[2] When a choice is required for the purchase of a consumable, and you have no particular preference.

Many times I have been in restaurant and having looked at the menu and seen a number of dishes that I like the look of, but I can't decide what I want, then I ask what is popular, what most other people are eating. I often do the same with choosing films and shows to watch. I follow the herd.

The key thing in these situations is that beyond having a good experience the outcome doesn't matter, it is not a life and death decision. Also, in this scenario it is a conscious choice whereas herd mentality is generally unconscious behaviour.

When is Herd Mentality A Bad Thing?

Don't follow the herd

Short answer:

Herd mentality is a bad thing when the outcome of your decision affects your health, wealth or peace of mind.

We make bad choices and follow the herd when:

  • We're distracted and other things are on our minds.
  • We're impressionable and more likely to simply accept what's presented to us than chart our own course.
  • We take the line of least resistance. Its easier to stay with bad but familiar options than decide on a better new one.

Never make a decision that will affect your health, wealth or peace of mind on the recommendation of a "respectable" third party with a well polished reputation unless they have some serious skin in the game.

Don't assume that others know what they're doing.

You're more likely to follow others when you don't know what you're doing, but that does not mean that they know what they are doing either.

    Understand and accept that just because someone you know and trust believes something to be true, does not make it so [until corroborated by supporting  data] it just means that they genuinely believe it to be true.

    Only take advice from people who are already invested in the situation they are advising you about, and where they have something to lose if you fail as a result of following their advice.

    [Nassim Taleb]

How Can You Protect Yourself From Herd Mentality?

Think for yourself

3 Guiding Principles:

[1] Take time, and do your own research before making a decision.

"Yeah but I haven't got the time..."

Make the time!

You are making a major decision about something that is going to have a significant impact on your health, wealth and/or peace of mind.

This decision is going to affect you for many years - maybe the rest of your life.

"Sounds like a lot of hard work..."

It is! And it's worth it, see above.

[2] Stop and think.

Decisions can be complex.

The right choice is not always the obvious or easy one.

Use the following thinks skills:

It’s all too easy to stay on autopilot and do things out of habit. Think it through carefully - from all angles.

The return on investment of your time spent in doing your own research and thinking it through is, over the course of your life time, far greater than you might imagine.

[3] Be willing to stand out from the crowd.

Arrive at your own conclusions and make your own decisions.

It doesn't matter what other people think or say.

The right decision may well mean that you have to go against the social norm, peer pressure, societal and family pressure,  and stand out as an individual.

Water filters and the upper classes

I recall some years ago being invited to a multi-level marketing scheme  run by  David Hunt [brother of the late UK racing driver and world champion James Hunt] selling water filters.

The pitch was dramatic and the meeting was packed full of enthusiastic network-marketeers largely drawn from the upper-middle classes and upper classes of English society plus a number of stock brokers, city professionals, and sitting near me I recognised a judge!

The hype was incredible, it was a bit like being at a gospel rally. There were testimonies and talks and just so much of a buzz. I felt myself being carried along with the enthusiasm of all these people.

These people had the secret to health, wealth and happiness and I wanted some of it...!

But an inner voice of rationality prompted me to hold back and defer a decision to join this scheme until I had a time to think it through properly and away from the hype.

But, when I got home and away from the buzz I sat down quietly with a calculator and did the sums and it became obvious to me that this scheme was at its zenith and close to having contacted every adult in the UK either directly, or indirectly, through family and social networks. 

I also realised that the bulk of sales were from new entrants in other other people's down-lines buying stock - there were few genuine retail sales.

So, I declined the invitation, made my self unpopular with the people who had invited me, and saved myself a lot of wasted time and money.

This anecdote is a typical illustration of how  human greed, gullibility and peer pressure can influence us into making decisions that are not in our best interests.

Remember the old saying:

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is!

    If you do what everyone else is doing, you shouldn’t be surprised to get the same results everyone else is getting.

    Better outcomes come from doing your own homework, taking the time to think it through properly and having the courage to stand out from the crowd and make decisions that are right for you.

Next Article:

Are You Trying To Teach A Cat To Bark?

Return from: "Herd Mentality"

to: Walking The Talk

Or to: Mental Models

Contact me

English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


  1. Preparing The Ground - For Things You Can Not See

    We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the ground. The phrase "preparing the ground" is a metaphor for making the necessary preparations to create the favourable conditions for something to…

    Read More

  2. Easing The Weight Of Expectation

    Don’t you often feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your back? Our start point is understanding that the ego has a very clear idea of how things ought to be, and its intention and ex…

    Read More

  3. Coram Deo - Living In Consciousness

    In you there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. Coram Deo is about living in consciousness. It is a Latin phrase which literally means “to…

    Read More

  4. The Power Of Patience - Why You Need The World's Toughest Quality

    Nothing in the world can take the place of patience. Patience and persistence are omnipotent. In everyday life, patience is often overshadowed by the desire for immediate results. We live in an era of…

    Read More

  5. Demonizing The Other and Personal Acts Of Compassion

    What Does Demonizing The Other Mean? Demonizing the other refers to the act of portraying a group of people or an individual as inherently evil, threatening, or inferior. It often serves to justify di…

    Read More

  6. Why You Should Embrace Anomalies - The Incredible Value Of Disconfirming Evidence

    Is Your Desire To Be Right Greater Than Your Desire To Have Been Right? An anomaly is a deviation from what is expected or commonly regarded as the norm. It often appears as an unexpected observation…

    Read More

  7. Amazing Grace - The Majesty And The Mercy of Freedom From Your Pain

    "I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see." The hymn and popular song "Amazing Grace" was written 250 years ago by John Newton, a former slave trader who in 1748 nearly died in a…

    Read More

  8. The Transformative Power Of Acceptance

    Experience The Power Of Acceptance. This website contains about 500,000 words. You could read every single word and it wouldn't make any real difference to you. You might become better informed, but t…

    Read More

  9. Inversion - The Power Of Opposite Thinking

    How To Avoid The Unwanted Outcome. The power of opposite thinking, also known as inversion, lies in its ability to stimulate creativity, enhance problem-solving, and provide a fresh perspective on cha…

    Read More

  10. Are You Aligned With Reality? Or Do You See What You Believe?

    We tend to see that which aligns with what we believe, and to act upon that rather than acting on reality. Being aligned with reality starts with a clear and accurate understanding of the world. It me…

    Read More

  11. The Law Of Response and Outcome

    A New Approach To A New Life At time of writing we are entering a new year which is traditionally a time of making resolutions to change our behaviour and improve the quality of our lives. And yet pow…

    Read More

  12. Clear Thinking - Turning Ordinary Moments Into Extraordinary Results

    There are two ways to handle the world - try to predict, or try to prepare. "Clear Thinking" by Shane Parrish, published in Oct 2023, is a laudable testament to the art of cogent thinking, and will be…

    Read More

  13. Self Dialogue - Working With Your Many Selves

    Self Dialogue Is About Working With ALL Levels Of Your Mind. The key to effective self dialogue is to have tools, techniques and resources that work with all levels of your mind. This simple self-faci…

    Read More

  14. The Balanced Brain - The Ultimate Route To Personal Transformation

    How To Experience The Benefits Of A Balanced Brain. Underpinning all of the belief systems and practices that offer routes to personal change, transformation and spiritual growth is the balanced brain…

    Read More

  15. How To Make Better Decisions - By Avoiding The Narrative Trap

    To Understand The Truth We Have To See The Whole Picture. One of the best ways to make better decisions is to have a deeper understanding of the many things that might stop that happening. To understa…

    Read More

  16. The Greatest Love - The Most Important Relationship You Will Ever Have

    Yet Most Will Never Know It Everyone of us has a place, in our hearts there's a space, that is home to the greatest love of all. This love transcends everything we think we know about the world of for…

    Read More

  17. Everything Is Connected And Why You Don't Feel It

    ...And Why It Matters As human beings we are skating on very thin ice with our sense of self and certainty about "how things are" and what we like to think of as reality:

    - What if everything we think…

    Read More

  18. Who Is In Charge Of Your Brain?

    How Not To Be Stupid. Who is in charge of your brain? This is not a silly questions. It matters because the outcomes that you experience in your life are determined by how you respond to the events th…

    Read More

  19. How To Be A Winner On A Very Large Scale

    The Incredible Benefits Of Selective Attention. This is not a typical article about how to be a winner. We are not going to talk about goal setting, the importance of habits, the power of focus and al…

    Read More

  20. The Metagame Approach To Life

    How To Achieve Your Biggest Objectives. The metagame approach to life is all about winning and achieving your biggest objectives by: - Understanding the bigger picture
    - Being better by doing things d…

    Read More

  21. Shantideva - The Way Of The Bodhisattva

    Walking The Path Of Compassion. Shantideva the 8th century Indian Buddhist sage is famous for his treatise "The Way of the Bodhisattva" delivered as an extended teaching to the monks of Nalanda monast…

    Read More

  22. Reframing History - Deconstruction And Discussion Not Destruction

    History is always about context, not imposing our own moral values on the past. For those of us fortunate enough to live within western democracies, we are living in an age where a vociferous and into…

    Read More

  23. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More

  24. How Things Really Are - The Inbuilt Design Flaws

    Chaos, Disorder And Decay Is The Natural Order Of Things. Nobody has the perfect life. We all struggle and strive to attain health, wealth and personal happiness. Yet these three big areas: our health…

    Read More

  25. Intuition Or Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Crawling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? Several months ago I was having a drink…

    Read More

  26. What Is Truth - How To Tell A Partial Truth From The Whole Truth?

    How the truth and nothing but the truth is often not the whole truth. My great aunty Flo broke her arm and died. It is true that she broke her arm in 1923. It is also true that she died in 1949. But t…

    Read More

  27. Duality And Life Beyond Your Thinking Mind

    Duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuses on the limitations of time, foreground and background, duality and "stuckness". The first aspect of duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuse…

    Read More

  28. The Conscious Mind Is Limited - Be Aware And Be Prepared

    Being aware is the first stage of being prepared. The conscious mind is limited in so many ways. There are some who would argue that there is no such thing as conscious thought and that it is represen…

    Read More

  29. Your Inner Map Of Reality - Here's Why You Think The Way You Do

    The big picture of how your inner map of reality creates your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. Your inner map of reality is based on the filters of your own ethnic, national, social, family and rel…

    Read More

  30. The Failure Of Cancel Culture - Suppression Not Engagement

    Why we need to wear our beliefs lightly and develop negative capability. Throughout history people have campaigned to fight beliefs, ideologies, and injustices that they perceived to be oppressive, di…

    Read More

Get new posts by email:


Support This Site