Herd mentality

human tendency to adopt beliefs and behaviors favored by one's peer group, instead of thinking independently

Herd mentality, or mob mentality, are terms descriptive of how people are influenced by their peers to adopt beliefs and behaviors favored by the group.

Quotes edit

  • The wealthy obtain in Paris ready-made wit and science—formulated opinions which save them the need of having wit, science, or opinion of their own.
  • The Lord of hosts ... taught experimentally what the end is of those who sin with the multitude, when He destroyed the whole human race with a flood, saving Noah with his little family, who, by putting his faith in Him alone, “condemned the world” (Heb. 11:7). In short, depraved custom is just a kind of general pestilence in which men perish not the less that they fall in a crowd.
  • The aggregate testimony of our neighbours is subject to the same conditions as the testimony of any one of them. Namely, we have no right to believe a thing true because everybody says so unless there are good grounds for believing that some one person at least has the means of knowing what is true, and is speaking the truth so far as he knows it. However many nations and generations of men are brought into the witness-box they cannot testify to anything which they do not know. Every man who has accepted the statement from somebody else, without himself testing and verifying it, is out of court.
  • I would prefer to speak openly and like an oracle to give answers serviceable to all mankind, even though no one should understand me, rather than to conform to popular opinions and so win the praise freely scattered by the mob.
  • In order to be able to be an irreproachable member of the herd, one must, above all, be a sheep.
  • And in the last few days, I've tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we're delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we're actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in midterm after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally. And I regret not to have been successful in those arguments, and of course it's painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself. But as we've seen at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves. And my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable, and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader, equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times, not just helping families to get through it but changing and improving the way we do things, cutting burdens on businesses and families and yes, cutting taxes, because that is the way to generate the growth and the income we need to pay for great public services.
  • The herdist instinct is furthermore not only personal, in the sense that it clamors for a personal collectivism; it creates also a longing and desire for the visual or acoustic contemplation of identitarian or uniformistic phenomena. The true herdist, the man truly dominated by that inferior instinct, will not only rejoice in marching amongst twenty thousand uniformly clad soldiers, all stepping rhythmically in one direction, but he will find an almost equal gratification in contemplating the show from a balcony. He will not only be happy in sitting amidst two hundred other bespectacled businessmen, drinking beer and humming one chant in unison, but the aspect of a skyscraper with a thousand identical windows will probably impress him more than a picture by Botticelli or Zurbarán.
  • The true herdist is nothing but an egoist who cannot tolerate anybody differing from himself. John Doe, the identitarian, wants a nation, a world, a universe peopled by millions of John Does. He cannot sympathize nor like anybody at variance with John Doe. No wonder that his wishful dream is a humanity of John Does without God or Devil. The herdist is by necessity a humanitarian.
  • The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
  • In just the measure that education aims to develop the individual with independence of judgment rather than to indoctrinate him with tradition and custom and official dogma, to that degree it separates him from the mass and is successful insofar as it emancipates his mind from the tyranny of herd opinion.
    • Everett Dean Martin, The Conflict of the Individual and the Mass in the Modern World (1932), p. 17
  • In his heart every man knows quite well that, being unique, he will be in the world only once and that no imaginable chance will for a second time gather together into a unity so strangely variegated an assortment as he is: he knows it but he hides it like a bad conscience—why? From fear of his neighbor, who demands conventionality and cloaks himself with it. But what is it that constrains the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself? Modesty, perhaps, in a few rare cases. With the great majority it is indolence, inertia. ... Men are even lazier than they are timid, and fear most of all the inconveniences with which unconditional honesty and nakedness would burden them. Artists alone hate this sluggish promenading in borrowed fashions and appropriated opinions and they reveal everyone’s secret bad conscience, the law that every man is a unique miracle.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.1, R. Hollingdale, trans. (1983), p. 127
  • Parliamentarianism—that is, public permission to choose between five basic political opinions—flatters and wins the favor of all those who would like to seem independent and individual, as if they fought for their opinions. Ultimately, however, it is indifferent whether the herd is commanded to have one opinion or to have five. Whoever deviates from the five public opinions and stands apart will always have the whole herd against him.
  • It is not the ferocity of the beast of prey that requires a moral disguise but the herd animal with its profound mediocrity, timidity, and boredom with itself.
  • If you have a virtue and she is your virtue, then you have her in common with nobody. But you want to call her by her name and pet her ... and behold, now you have her in common with the people and have become one of the herd with your virtue. You would do better to say “Inexpressible and nameless is that which gives my soul agony and sweetness.”... May your virtue be too exalted for the familiarity of names, and if you must speak of her, do not be ashamed to stammer.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 148 “On enjoying and suffering the passions”
  • The delight in the herd is more ancient than delight in the I; and as long as the good conscience is identified with the herd, only the bad conscience says: I.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, W. Kauffman, trans. (1954), § 1.15 “On the Thousand and One Goals”
  • Today, when the herd animal in Europe is the only one who attains and distributes honors, when “equality of rights” all too easily can get turned around into equality of wrongs—what I mean is into a common war against everything rare, strange, privileged, the higher man, the higher soul, the higher duty, the higher responsibility, the creative fullness of power and mastery
  • The mass is all that which sets no value on itself—good or ill—based on specific grounds, but which feels itself “just like everybody,” and nevertheless is not concerned about it; is, in fact, quite happy to feel itself as one with everybody else.
  • The most radical division that it is possible to make of humanity is that which splits it into two classes of creatures: those who make great demands on themselves, piling up difficulties and duties; and those who demand nothing special of themselves, but for whom to live is to be every moment what they already are, without imposing on themselves any effort towards perfection, mere buoys that float on the waves.
  • That man is intellectually of the mass who, in the face of any problem, is satisfied with thinking the first thing he finds in his head. On the contrary, the excellent man is he who condemns what he finds in his mind without previous effort, and only accepts as worthy of him what is still far above him and what requires a further effort in order to be reached.
  • Each of these private teachers who work for pay, whom the politicians call sophists and regard as their rivals, inculcates nothing else than these opinions of the multitude which they opine when they are assembled and calls this knowledge wisdom. It is as if a man were acquiring the knowledge of the humors and desires of a great strong beast which he had in his keeping, how it is to be approached and touched, and when and by what things it is made most savage or gentle, yes, and the several sounds it is wont to utter on the occasion of each, and again what sounds uttered by another make it tame or fierce, and after mastering this knowledge by living with the creature and by lapse of time should call it wisdom, and should construct thereof a system and art and turn to the teaching of it, knowing nothing in reality about which of these opinions and desires is honorable or base, good or evil, just or unjust, but should apply all these terms to the judgments of the great beast, calling the things that pleased it good, and the things that vexed it bad, having no other account to render of them, but should call what is necessary just and honorable, never having observed how great is the real difference between the necessary and the good, and being incapable of explaining it to another. ... Do you suppose that there is any difference between such a one and the man who thinks that it is wisdom to have learned to know the moods and the pleasures of the motley multitude in their assembly, whether about painting or music or, for that matter, politics? For if a man associates with these and offers and exhibits to them his poetry or any other product of his craft or any political. service, and grants the mob authority over himself more than is unavoidable, the proverbial necessity of Diomede will compel him to give the public what it likes, but that what it likes is really good and honorable, have you ever heard an attempted proof of this that is not simply ridiculous?
  • Those who practice speaking in a way to catch the favor of vulgar herd also turn out in general to be incontinent in their lives and fond of pleasure. And this surely is to be expected; for if, in providing pleasure for others, they disregard what is honorable, they would be slow to place that which is upright and sound above the gratification of their own pleasures and luxurious tastes, and slow to pursue the temperate course instead of the agreeable.
    • Pseudo-Plutarch, “The education of children,” Moralia (London: 1922), 6B

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