The Herd Effect: Why People Strive to Be Average

It has frequently occurred to me that to be among the majority was to be merely “normal” and “average”; while it’s rare for one to admit aspiring to be characterized in that way, most of us struggle not conforming to the norms of society.  Societal norms are multi-faceted: from those that drive how we dress to those that dictate what we philosophically believe in.  These norms pressure our behavior and beliefs on a daily basis.

It is for that reason I chose Mark Twain’s pithy saying as my tagline for this blog as it so effectively captures my personal philosophy: “Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause & reflect”.

Standing Out From The Herd

Standing Out From The Herd

I appreciate this version of the saying which ends in “…it is time to pause & reflect” over an alternate form which ended in “…it is time to reform” primarily for the reason that we’d all like to think that this same “herd effect” works in both directions and that, over time, a society moves toward progression having both learned from its mistakes and been enlightened by its scientific discoveries.

In short, this so-called “herd effect” is both the source of our knowledge and traditions while, to some degree, holding us back from a potentially improved future.  It’s then incumbent on us as a society to effectively manage the “rate of change” of the herd so as to balance our identity with our progression.

While I’d love to cover philosophically-charged topics, the history of the human herd has taught us all to be careful in public forums.  While some topics are sacrosanct to most (e.g., politics and religion), others are deemed appropriately debatable (e.g., business, technology, and personal finance).  For that reason, I’ve decided to focus my blog on the latter topics as, while it’s unlikely for anyone over age 30 to change their political or religious identity (note: I’m thoroughly impressed by those who do), it’s not uncommon for those of us in that age bracket to want to discuss issues of personal finance or business.

It may be worth noting that the herd effect has always been alive and well when it comes to technology as each generation berates the subsequent generation’s habits around technology: in the ’80s, the herd was concerned about television’s effect on children; the ’90s brought concerns over excessive video game-playing; the ’00s herd worries cover the dangers of social media, texting, and mobile phones (note: I don’t want to discount potential radiation dangers of our technology).  What will those children raised with television, video games, and social media berate their children about in the ’10s and ’20s?

6 thoughts on “The Herd Effect: Why People Strive to Be Average

  1. Pingback: Five Bold Predictions for the Future of Humanity | Bassam Salem: Against the Herd

  2. Like you, I wonder about what the next generation will kvetch about in terms of technology. However, the harmful side effect of growing up texting is an inability to effectively use correct language/grammar. I can’t tell you how many times I read “u” or “plz” in essays.

  3. Pingback: Against the Herd Is 6 Months Old: The Most-Read Posts So Far | Bassam Against the Herd

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