What Is Herd Mentality

What Is Herd Mentality

With the holiday season approaching this topic seemed like a good one to discuss.  Let me cue this up for you.  Picture if you will………

On Black Friday my wife and I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to do some holiday shopping for our 2 daughters.  Yes, I know, the simple act of going out shopping on Black Friday is a PRIME example of the herd mentality.  But wait, it gets better.  We went in the middle of the afternoon so things weren’t as crazy as they probably would have been at 8AM or 9AM.  But it will still fairly busy.  As I shuffled around the store behind my wife holding the growing pile of clothes we were going to buy for our daughters I started to notice something through my half awake eyes.  The vast majority of the people in the store, both male and female, looked eerily similar.  They looked similar in the clothes they were wearing, which, as you might have guessed, was pretty sporty.  Nike this and Adidas that and Under Armour shirts and Asics shoes and on and on and on.  I am not joking when I say 9 out of 10 people were dressed in sporty clothing from their shoes to their leggings to their sweatshirts topped off with a headband or a baseball hat.  And a lot of them were carrying a Starbuck’s drink or something in their YETI.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is herd mentality.  We do what our friends and neighbors are doing on a subconscious level because we all want to belong.  Well, not all of us, but the majority of us.

Urban Dictionary’s definition is this:  The inability or refusal to listen to one’s own instinct or ‘gut feeling” but to instead follow the majority for fear of being wrong, ostracized or ridiculed.


Here are further examples of herd mentality:

  • One of the best examples is the stock market.  The market depends quite a bit on the users actions.  When people notice a lot of people selling a stock for example, more and more people tend to sell that same stock thinking something is going on.  They assume other people know something that they don’t.
  • In a reference to my wandering around Dick’s above fashion is another good example of the herd mentality.  For some reason around the office I work in there is a sweater/sweatshirt type combo made of course by brands such as Izod and the like that are quite popular with the guys.  I noticed a few on some of our senior management then lo and behold, over the course of a few months, many lads in the office were sporting them.
  • Keeping up with the Joneses.  This is really a whole other topic (consumerism and keeping up appearances) but have you ever noticed how if one of your neighbors gets a snowblower then 3 others do?  Or if someone gets an unground sprinkler system put in then several other people sign up to get one with the same company?  I sure do.
  • Shows: AKA Netflix.  I use Netflix here because it’s a great example.  I just saw a post by a friend of mine on FaceBook last week asking for suggestions for her next show to binge watch on Netflix.  And her post blew up!  Because we all want to watch the same things so we have stuff to talk about.  By the way my suggestions were Longmire and Stranger Things.
  • Sports Teams.  I live in Kansas City and if you aren’t a Chief’s or Royals fan you might as well have horns on your head.  Everyone dresses in Chief’s jersey’s for Red Friday (before a home game) and during baseball season when you are out and about probably 40% of people are wearing a Royals jersey of some sort.  If you think I’m kidding come visit me in Kansas City.

Go Against The Herd

We all tend to follow the herd from time to time and that’s okay.  When we are uncertain about what “normal” is we tend to trust what others are doing as being appropriate because so many people are doing it.  But it also bears discussing that it’s not a great idea to always follow the herd.  Individuality is important as well as simply being yourself.  Following what other people are doing all the time will lead you to where everyone else goes all the time – and that’s not the path for us.  Here’s some ways to go against the herd.

Above all be yourself.  Know yourself and be yourself.  That way you can go down whatever road is right for you.  When you know who you are and what is important to you the rest kind of falls away.  You don’t need to look to others for their acceptance and nod of approval, you’ve got your own and that’s all you need.

Be comfortable having conflicts.  Learn to have arguments and to stand up for yourself.  The problem is many people are fairly easily to bend to the will of others.  And that’s fine in some instances but not in most.  You need to be okay with agreeing to disagree.  One former COO I worked for used to say that a big reason why the company had such great success was that it tended to hire A (driven) personalities.  And because of that people would “violently agree” in his words.  Which meant people had different points of view and would argue for them then ultimately come up with the best solution for the client.  I loved that, violently agree.

Question things.  Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it needs to keep being done a certain way.  Ask a lot of questions.  If you think something would work better or more efficiently or cheaper or whatever a different way, say so.  Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and suggest a new way of doing things.  This is how innovation happens people.

Know what you want.  At least in some things.  This is another way of saying have some goals.  If you have goals and are working towards them chances are you are somewhat inspired to achieve them.  And if you are inspired to achieve them you will focus on them and work towards them and not really have as much care for what others are doing because you are following your own path and your own agenda.  So go get it.

It’s okay to fail.  If you are failing you are trying.  And if you are trying and failing you are doing more than the vast majority of the herd.  This is something that keeps most people locked in tight to the herd – they don’t want to fail and even more importantly, they don’t want anyone to see them fail.  It’s okay to fail, it means you are trying to do something that is unique to you or maybe hasn’t even ever been done.  Remember Mr. Gretzky:

Wrap Up

So it’s okay to follow the herd on some things, maybe even a lot of things.  It’s probably best to stop on red and go on green like all the other cars are doing.  It’s fine to cheer for your hometown sports team with your buddies.  I won’t say anything if I see you with a YETI thermal cup because I want one too, I can be a sucker for marketing.  But it’s not okay to follow the herd on everything.  Make sure you know what you want and what you are about so you can carve your own direction and NOT follow the herd in everything.

All my best,

Mat A.





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  1. Hello Mat!

    I didn’t know that wanting to blend in so that people accept you, had its own term, but it sounds fair. People indeed have the need to belong to a team and they would do anything to mimic actions and images. But, sometimes people can lose themselves and their individuality, so I really agree with you on the fact that it’s good to go against the herd if it feels right for you!

    1. Hi Antonis – appreciate you sharing your thoughts and stopping by.  I agree with you, in many ways it’s not a bad thing to be part of the herd.  It leads us to good schools and things of that sort plus a sense of belonging.  To your point it’s when we start to lose our sense of individuality and take everything on blind faith that can potentially not be a good thing.  Thanks again!

  2. First off, nice little Shakespeare quote in there. Love that guy!!

    Being an artist, I’ve lived much of life following my muse and not much being pulled by “the herd” as much as the average person. Yet I still have areas where the effects are felt. Which kinds of music are “in”; what video style to shoot in; what fashion to where for a performance.

    Boy, do opinions come out of the woodwork on that last one – the one I care the least about!!

    I also meditate, and I find that that is a discipline that helps me have a controlled mind, and also one that has taken the time to think, not rushing into decisions but only moving on when I feel peace about it.

    As for conflicts, I find that I have to be different with different people on that. Sometimes I’ll have to press my point, other times I hardly press at all hoping to get the other person making a decision for once.

    Humans. Weird creatures. lol

    1. Hey TJ!  Thanks for the stop by and adding your thoughts, I appreciate it.  Humans are indeed weird creatures.  When something completely unexpected happens it is typically due to the “human factor”.  It’s cool to hear that you are an artist that marches to your own drummer, I respect the heck out of that.  Cheers!! 

  3. I get the whole herd mentality thing but sometimes we just happen to like the same stuff. For instance I love Netflix but I am not at all into Game of Thrones. I like Starbucks for the simple fact that it is simple available and I can do work there, it’s like a cool library. It is expensive but I justify it for the convenience. If I want t cheaper cup of coffee I’ll go get one but I will tell you this, it is rarely as good and that is a fact not a herd opinion.
    I love my Niners, Giants and Dubs because I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin now that is just a regional thing, you know home town.

    I think I am a beat to my own drummer guy but I do understand the herd mentality.

    1. HI Damo, appreciate you taking the time to read the article and share your thoughts.  I agree with you that we definitely can tend to like the same things such as Starbucks.  In your note regarding the Niners and Giants it is these regional ties (such as sports teams) that can bind us together and give us a sense of community and is not really a sign of herd mentality.  Thanks again!

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