Real Examples of Herd Mentality At Work

July 12, 2017

Real Examples of Herd Mentality At Work

by Ian D Scofield

In our second article this week we are going to examine some real examples of herd mentality at work so you can get a feel for how it can become dangerous and how the process works.  Each one of these examples is taken from around the world and throughout time to properly illustrate the concept.  Let’s take a look.

The Cologne Attacks

Spread around Germany in 2015, on New Year’s Eve were a set of mob attacks on those around the cities, particularly women.  People started to attack random people with no apparent target besides to cause chaos and disorder.  Over 500 complaints against attackers were lodged with law enforcement.  While it is believed that these attacks were coordinated, there is more to it that than. 

As this TIME article points out, mob mentality probably led to the great number of people participating in the attack.  A small number of people likely led the attacks and convinced the others that it was okay to participate.  A large number of people were grouped together after all.  Their anonymity was secured and the attack must be okay because so many people agreed to participate.

This may be the worst type of herd mentality because if the people had taken more than a few seconds to think about it, they would have realized how bad their actions were.  But as TIME noted, acting as a group leads one to lose touch with their morale compass.

May Day Protests

There are multiple protests that have taken place over the last 5 or so years that we have all seen on the news.  I lived in Seattle when some of the ones in Seattle happened.  These protests started off peaceful, with every intention of them staying that way.  Then, as noted by news coverage afterwards, certain people from the crowd started to become violent.

The violence encouraged a police response and the protestors were left with one of two options, follow those starting violence or leave.  While some decided to leave, a large number of them decided to fight.  May Day 2012 is a good example of this.

Seattle Super Bowl Win

In 2014 the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl.  After this win, fans went nuts.  What started out as a peaceful gathering in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, became a rowdy, night long, city-wide party.  People began lighting bon fires to climbing buildings.  I was at work that night and I listened to the scanner.

One of the things I remember the most was driving through the area on patrol afterwards, there were streets covered in glass from all of the bottles that had been thrown.  I was worried about the patrol car wheels but at the point that I reached that street, there was no easy way around.

All of this started with one group of people who began actions that most would consider not socially acceptable.  Then the actions spread and everyone began to justify the partying.  The whole herd took it on.

Burning Man

If you are looking for a more peaceful version of herd mentality, you can find it at Burning Man.  What started out as a social experiment grew into one of the biggest cultural events around.  At Burning Man many of the activities and actions are unplanned and people follow a small majority who start actions.  A great example of this is when one or two people stripped naked and started dancing, a large amount of the festival started.

Multiple reasons for this have been cited.  One is that no one wants to be the only person out of thousands that still has their clothes on.  Another reason is that since everyone at the festival has started to remove their clothes, it must have become socially acceptable. 

The Stock Market

Another example of herd mentality at work is the stock market.  It is a large market that depends heavily on users’ actions.  When a noticeable amount of people sell of a stock, most people will start to sell it so that they don’t lose too much money.  They assume that the noticeable amount of people selling know something that they don’t.

There are plenty of examples throughout history of herd mentality being exhibited by humans.  Some of them aren’t harmful, others have ended up in the loss of lives and large amounts of property damage.  Take these examples and keep in mind when you might have herd mentality on your hands.  Use it to stay safe in the field.

 About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at ian@iandscofield.com.





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