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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brady

Beware The Crowd

Beware the crowd is what Seneca said, he understood it’s power to overtake your good nature, to have you put aside your better judgment. Crowds have that ability, to overtake your own sensibilities and become part of a group think. Sometimes thats a good thing other times not so much. Most of us will have a time we can recall when we were part of a crowd and allowed ourselves to do something we would never have done as an individual. The emotions and fervor of a group of people operating together are palpable you can feel it. I have witnessed groups assemble with a peaceful goal and the watched them absorb and seemingly neutralize negative energy. Like water carrying away a leaf on a river, not allowing negative energy to gain any momentum against its current. I have also witnessed crowds go from neutral to brutish in the span of a few moments, having met some obstacle and deciding to overcome it with force to very negative effect.

As individuals we have control over our faculties, that is to say, our bodies and minds. When we are by ourselves we tend to be reflective in the present or using metacognition were we are thinking about our thinking, knowing about our knowing, becoming aware of one’s awareness, and engaging in higher-order thinking. When we are engaged with a group of more than just a few people we tend to change your focus to monitoring the group and what it’s doing more than analyzing what we are witnessing. There are several theories as to why this is, most of these seem to reflect back to social conditioning and social subconscious cues that we look for when in groups.

What you need to be aware of is that everyone is doing the same thing, observing the others in the group, and modifying their behavior to stay within the group parameters. Now that is not to say some people will well exceed the groupthink or actions and take poetic license therefor pushing the group in one way or another. What I am saying is that if you can understand this herd mentality you have a chance to avoid it.

Think of it this way, you have the ability to make your own judgments through the use of observation and higher-order thinking, why would you want to outsource that to a group. We know in a group you’re going to get an average outcome to some degree. If the group is made up of extremely knowledgeable diverse individuals you’re more likely to have a higher-order outcome. The opposite end of the spectrum is if the group is made up of a more homogeneous type that is to say all of more or less the same background you are less likely to have an outcome that differs from the singular efforts of individuals in the group.

The purpose of this is not to cast judgment in any way but to try to understand how people’s behavior change when in a group. It is my opinion groups and alcohol have the same effect to some degree and lower one’s ability to make a proper judgment. But like alcohol when taken in moderation and under a controled setting seems to go ok.

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