How Does Herd Behaviour Affect Individuals?

Humans belong to Kingdom Animalia, specifically Class Mammalia, and Superfamily Hominodea. To put it simply, humans are animals.

Since humans are also animals, there are times when they display some similar instinctive and rational behaviours that other animals display. One of these is the so-called herd behaviour.

What is Herd Behaviour?

Herd behaviour is the term used for describing people’s tendency to act and think as a group. This stems from the behaviour of animals that are in herds, especially when they are faced with a dangerous situation like trying to escape from a predator.

All the animals in the herd form a group and move together as a single unit in panic mode. It is uncommon for a member of the herd to wander off and abandon the unit and its movement.

Herd behaviour is also applicable to human behaviour and it often refers to a large number of people acting the same way at the same time.

Most of the time, herd behaviour is associated with irrationality since the actions that people make are based on emotions alone instead of giving the situation a careful and rational thought.

Herd behaviour among humans is best and often observed at large-scale sports events, religious gatherings, riots, strikes, demonstrations, as well as outbreaks of mob violence.

The moment herd behaviour sets in, the opinion-forming process and judgment of an individual get shut down as the person automatically follows the behaviour and movement of the group.

Human Herd Behaviour Examples in Real Life

Herd behaviour in humans is commonly observed at panic-filled and dangerous situations. For instance, herd behaviour can occur when a fire breaks out in a building where people usually suspend their individual reasoning and escape together as a single pack.

Those who find themselves in a crisis where they need to escape will try to copy other people’s actions, move faster than usual, engage in physical interactions with one another, and disregard other alternative strategies just to keep up with the mass escape trend.

The stock market bubble phenomenon is also among the most commonly cited examples of herd behaviour among humans. Large and significant trends in the stock market usually start and finish with bubbles or crashes or a mass frenzy of buying or selling.

Most observers consider these trends in the stock market as the best examples of herd behaviour. This is because people are driven by their emotions instead of a reason to be part of the crowd. Crashes are driven by fear while mass buying frenzies are the result of greed.

Human Herd Behaviour in Crowds

Another more obvious example of herd behaviour in humans can occur in mobs or dense crowds in public areas. Crowds that congregate due to a protest or grievance can involve a form of herding behaviour that can become violent.

Psychologists presumed that a “group mind” can end up overtaking the mob, encouraging the people to act in ways they would never do so individually. This can then increase the chances of situations getting violent.

Even sporting events can also result in herd behaviour on a violent scale. The rowdy football matches that were prevalent during the 1980s in Europe are a popular example of violence and herding behaviour related to sports.

Fervent football fans usually engaged in destructive or unruly behaviour in order to support their team and intimidate the rivals. This often grew to the extent that the people involved were known to suffer from serious injuries or worse, even some fatalities.

There are also several historians who believe that Adolf Hitler intentionally exploited the psychology of herd behaviour. As a result, he planted a large number of undercover German officers amidst the crowds during his speeches.

The said undercover officers would cheer for Hitler with such enthusiasm. This made the rest of the crowd to follow suit and it seemed as if the whole crowd were Hitler’s supporters. His speeches were also broadcasted to a bigger public audience that further magnified the effect.

Human Herd Behaviour in Making Everyday Decisions

Herd behaviour, however, doesn’t always have this kind of detrimental effects or results. This is because it can also have an influence on people’s simple everyday decisions.

For instance, let’s assume that a family is enjoying a comfortable stroll searching for the best restaurant where they can grab some snacks.

If they pass by a restaurant that is almost empty while another one is filled with a pack of patrons, there is a higher chance that the family will go for the crowded restaurant. This is based on the assumption that the restaurant is a better choice since it has a bigger crowd of customers.

Yes, herding can also be as subtle as this. It can simply involve the inclination of people to follow a crowd instead of carving out their own individual path in most situations.

Are you also someone who has the tendency to exude this kind of behaviour? 

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