When studying psychology, all those decades ago, a lecturer touched on the very pertinent subject of herd mentality. The understanding that humans tend to adopt beliefs and behaviours favoured by one’s peer group, instead of thinking independently.

In an interview with Reality Check Radio the host asked me about being independent and thinking for myself. He wondered if I found it hard.

My reply was simple. I shared with him that my dad repeatedly taught me a very valuable lesson growing up. He would say to me

“find out what everybody else is doing and run like hell in the opposite direction.”

I wasn’t the sharpest kid in the classroom, but that never mattered to me. My greatest skill became social observation and awareness – looking and listening. And so for me herd mentality has never been of concern I have always, and will continue, to beat my own drum, walk in my own shoes, observe what everyone is rushing to do and question everything.

However, I too understand this is not the case for many people.

In the 1950’s there was an experiment conducted by Solomon Asch which was to become a benchmark for understanding social conformity. The experiment has been repeated many times since with results that have been supported again and again. Solomon Asch was a Polish American gestalt psychologist and a pioneer in social psychology. His, now famous, Asch Experiment proved that humans do cower to social pressure thereby conforming to the group.

And conforming is the interesting part.

Independent thinking tends to fall by the way-side as people chose not to place their head above the parapet, drawing attention to themselves, being brave and speaking out. Incidentally 75% of the participants in the Asch conformity experiments went along with the rest of the group at least once.

What the Asch experiment found was people conform in part because:

  1. As humans we are social creatures.
  2. We are aware of what the people around us think.
  3. We want to be liked.
  4. We don’t want to be seen to be rocking the boat so we will go along with the group even if we don’t believe what people are saying.

Indeed, group dynamics is one of the most powerful forces in human psychology. Governments, the media, corporate companies for advertising purposes and now social media, use such understanding to have individuals and groups of people conform.

So how can you overcome this urge to follow along with the herd?

Embrace uncertainty: Embracing uncertainty can help you resist the pressure to fit in and lead you to make decisions based on your own intuition.

Self-awareness: Ask yourself, do your actions/behaviours reflect your genuine self or are they swayed by external pressures?

Back yourself: Trust in your awareness of any given situation so you feel empowered to make independent decisions.

Critically think: Embrace critical thinking skills to assist with making informed and objective choices.

Listen to diverse perspectives: If you are only watching X channel and reading Y paper then you will only get XY perspective. Find independent sources of information that will give you both sides.

Converse with people who think differently: And/or have different backgrounds to you.

In the context of your family’s health are you gathering information, listening to different perspectives, critically thinking, and trusting your intuition, or are you following the herd?

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GOOD TO SHARE: Since 1990 Drs Randall & Sarah Farrant have been global mentors to thousands of individuals, families, health professionals, celebrities and sporting personalities. They have facilitated and inspired people to live an alternate and vitalistic life. https://vital-wellbeing.com/

Resources:

Watch the Asch Experiment video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnT2FcuZaYI&ab_channel=pumpitoutdotcom

Reality Check Radio has tens of thousands of regular listeners, over 300,000 Kiwis have tuned in to date and there have been millions of replay downloads across the website and social media. Tune into RCR here

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