Herd feeling is a concept used in psychology and other social disciplines, but not a scientific term, but rather a figurative analogue for a brief description of a rather voluminous concept. Briefly, it can be described as motivating one’s own actions solely by the fact that most of the social group of individuals do this (everyone skipped a lesson or insulted the weak, screaming at a match or getting married this year, boycotting a certain person or defending the party’s position).

The herd feeling in humans is different from the same mechanism in the animal world, where the behavior of a large mass of representatives of one species is governed not by personal preferences and necessity, but by biological laws. This is a useful evolutionary acquisition of the animal world, allowing to save the population. For example, when one individual begins to run away, it is much more effective for all the others to run away than they were waiting for immediate danger to see for themselves. In the context of human behavior, rather, it implies an inability to respond individually, obeying the laws of the crowd and mass behavior.

A herd or herd instinct is subordinated to certain biological characteristics of the human psyche, for example, the establishment of certain rhythms and cycles - this is how applause in the crowd synchronizes, the menstrual periods of women in the same territory, and even wakefulness and hunger. Accordingly, using this expression, it implies the initial attitude to the manifestations of human behavior, as to lower, animal, biologically determined forms.

Not all people gathered in one place behave like a herd - only the presence of intellectual control over their own behavior is the determining factor. Consequently, the less intellectually informed decisions that take into account individual needs, the higher the likelihood of instinctive behavior at the animal level.

What it is

The effect of gregarious feeling in its prevalence can be compared with hypnotizability, that is, there are people exposed to such effects, and there are those who can successfully manage these features. Studies have shown that in the human context, a herd sense arises depending on who is the motivator of action. If in the animal world, the entire population can submit to one, then in the human environment it is important that the influencer be a leader, have charisma or express the fulfillment of the desires of the majority of those gathered. Further, everything is much simpler - a huge crowd is enough from two to five percent of such leaders who can eventually make the whole mass act like they do. Special technologies are not required for this - the main thing is that these few percent behave in the same way, harmoniously, then the rest, who have less leadership, will begin to copy their behavior.

The speed of achieving the effect depends on the number of people - the more, the faster the result. This is due to the fact that in a tete-a-tete interaction, the physical difference and individuality is very strong, but being in a crowd, the sense of community and similarity comes to the fore, the individuality is erased. As a result, the stronger the physical feeling of being involved in a group and the feeling of continuing it in one's psyche, the more pronounced will be the effect of the crowd or herd due to the fact that their own individuality, like the cognitive-intellectual assessment of the situation, will become secondary.

This effect deserves special attention because of its problematic nature with respect to consequences, because when a herd instinct occurs, moral and value foundations finally fall, a person feels complete impunity for any actions. This is achieved due to the fact that the level of responsibility for one committed action is the same, only if the act is performed by one person, he is fully responsible for the results, if two, then this level is divided between them, but if it is done by hundreds of people, then the level of personal responsibility is not palpable.

Such impunity gives access to the commission of those acts that are unacceptable for the individual level of consciousness, as a result, it is the crowd that can do anything. The lack of internal moral framework lowers a person to the state of the animal's psyche and if you then talk to the person who committed the crime, succumbing to the crowd effect, you can often find remorse and lack of understanding of the motivation of their own actions.


The reasons for this effect exist on several levels. The first least controlled is biological and innate synchronization. Human bodies, like all living things, are subject to certain rhythms, and it is their submission to general laws that ensures survival. Evolutionary synchronization of behavior provided a favorable relationship, well-coordinated work and the provision of necessary security for the entire human community. These mechanisms have been preserved to some extent, although they are amenable to correction by consciousness and intellect, and by developing their own behavioral strategies.

There is a minority influence mechanism on the behavior of the general mass. So if you give the crowd of one hundred people the task to walk in arbitrary ways, and only five of them will move in a certain trajectory, then in a few minutes the whole system is synchronized, and the crowd will walk according to an algorithm defined by five people. It will be harder to do the same if everyone is motivated for his own strategy of movement, respectively, the effect of the herd occurs when a person does not have his own concept. Those who sit idle, do not understand what they want, are not sure of their goals - they are more easily influenced on the grounds that it is easy to fill an empty place.

There are more controlled manifestations of this feeling, for example, the need to be accepted or the fear of being excluded from a certain group. Observance of rituals gives a sign to everyone around that it is your own, you need to protect it and share the benefits - this is how people enter subcultures and circles of interest, so people recognize those close by spirit. When the need for interaction becomes higher than one's own principles, then there is subordination to the demands of the crowd, for the sake of preserving a place in it.

Examples of herd instinct

Examples of herd instinct are manifested in any large society that is specially ordered. For example, if it is a queue, then a negative attitude towards passing without her expectation is a programmed feeling. Similarly, we can talk about the herd reaction to those who are late for any session established by time, be it a conference, an operation, a film or a meeting of friends. This does not apply to the norms of morality, etiquette and the internal feeling of violation of their own borders, because, in fact, the personal participation of a person is not affected by this behavior of another. Only in the context of a personal meeting, an individual exam, can we talk about something else - if there is a majority unfamiliar with each other, then this is the effect of the crowd.

Another example is a sense of humor, different for all people, but at the same time, if you gather a fairly large audience, you will notice that everyone will react emotionally about the same. It is worth a few people to laugh and the whole room starts laughing with them. What is characteristic, even if one finds what is happening is ridiculous, he will rather restrain from the bright manifestation of this, if there is silence, and everyone listens with serious faces. In the most extreme cases, people may not even notice the funny character or seriousness of the situation, yielding to the impact of the surrounding facial expressions.

Relatively collected student audiences, the same gregarious feeling works, plunging teachers into impotence. When interested individuals begin to skip couples, because the whole group has gone or to respond negatively about an interesting subject. The moment of management complexity lies in the fact that not everyone decides to leave a couple, but only a few people, but when emotional leaders make this choice, despite the fact that half of the audience is not defined in their educational motivation, the outcome remains one.

Vivid examples are the behavior of fans and fans, religious figures and people at rallies. In fact, if you talk to them in a dialogue, the majority will behave more restrained. But the herd instinct concerns not only active actions, but also ignoring. Remember how passersby pretend not to notice the fallen or metro passengers imitate sleep. Here, the motivation is not so much in aspiration not to stand out from the crowd, not to help the fallen, and therefore not to take responsibility (or maybe he will not get up because he died), not to give way, expecting others to do it.