The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Herd Mentality

I sometimes wonder about how people behave in groups. We are, after all, herd animals. We don't see ourselves that way, we think of ourselves as individuals who make our own decisions. Yet we almost constantly engage in a "herd mentality." The essence of advertising is the manipulation of that mentality. Fashion trends, fads, the lifeblood of the film and TV industry, are all examples of herd mentality. We call it "peer pressure" when we talk about kids but we all engage in it. It is a rare individual who does not .Advertising is all about exploiting that behavior and exploiting the desire to be perceived as a leader even if one isn't.

Think about it... Who starts fads? We've all been caught up in one or more in our lives but do you know who actually started any of the fads you followed? I know of only two and they were very localized fads. One used a sketch drawing of a mouse, similar to Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Ratfink, and spread it all over my junior high school. I was one of the three who kicked that off. The other was a dress fad that lasted only a few weeks and was actually a practical joke on the principal of that same school. Other than that, I have no knowledge. Who kicked off the bell bottom style of the 60s and 70s? I haven't a clue but I wore a lot of bell bottom jeans in those years.

I think a lot of fads are kicked off by ad campaigns. Ipods, for example. An over-priced piece of technology that has become essential to teenagers and twenty-somethings. No one was clamoring for these until it somehow became associated with being cool or hip or whatever term is used for the people you wish you were but fear you could never be. In school, kids gather into groups or cliques or (the new term) posses. Even the perceived "losers" of the school group together (much like the brainiacs of my day). I say it is all part of the natural urge of the human animal to belong to the herd.

And, finally, this is what happens in election campaigns. Why are you inundated with poll results? Because enough people will follow the trend, succumb to the peer pressure of a poll. I am afraid that fewer and fewer people think for themselves. Fewer and fewer people can actually explain or list the policy positions of their candidates. People follow the lead of their peers. The leader of whatever group is likely just following the lead of his/her parents or some person they admire.

And I think this is a very dangerous trend.


Michael said...

Hah! Now, with the policies surrounding the Obama-McCain debates, I actually know them as I learned a lot by doing research during the election. McCain made less sense in his proposals than Obama and was less careful with his wording too. Slip-ups of the mouth will lead to slip-ups of the mind when it comes to policy-implementing.

I do not belong to a clique. I am what they call a 'drifter'. I float around to various groups, inject my opinion and float to another. If I don't feel like it (which is 95% of the time), I sit on the floor and wait for the bell to ring.

I do have an iPod, though. It is nifty and great to me. I did look at other portable music players and the iPod suited me best.

I like to think that I start the fads. I tell people about the latest TV show that came out. I teach my friends how to tackle problems differently in a way that makes sense to me but they never thought of.

Of course, I still succumbed to the whole alcohol/drinking thing. I wear jeans and hoodies because it's popular. I eat at McDonalds because everyone eats there.

Herdism's hard to escape.


P.S. I find that the topic of this one is semi-related to your most recent post, by the way.

Douglas said...

I am often reminded of the Dr. Pepper ads. They effectively tied individualism and group dynamics into a single theme. Unique but one of a crowd. One of a like minded group who go their own way.

Douglas said...

I am often reminded of the Dr. Pepper ads. They effectively tied individualism and group dynamics into a single theme. Unique but one of a crowd. One of a like minded group who go their own way.