Herd Stupidity

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of evidence of herd stupidity recently. One recent example is that when Wisconsin’s Supreme Court abruptly overturned their state’s lockdown, people began flocking to bars and snuggling up nice and close to each other with no protection. Such behavior will just make the virus hornier.

Similar behavior has been happening in Vegas too, now that restaurants and most retail businesses are cleared to reopen. While some stores are strict about maintaining decent precautions like requiring all patrons to don masks and limiting store capacity, other places seem to let people do whatever they want. So unfortunately herd stupidity is abundant. If this continues I think we’ll see the infections and deaths ramping up again, as many experts are predicting.

This isn’t a situation where you should look to the masses for guidance. When you see idiotic behavior, don’t let the fact that everyone else seems fine with it persuade you that it’s probably okay. Stupid behavior that’s popular is still stupid. A bar full of idiots taking reassuring cues from each other is still a bar full of idiots.

People are strongly influenced by social cues. Sometimes those cues are good. When I go running in my neighborhood early in the morning, I most often see people practicing good social distancing. When people approach each other on the sidewalk, one will step into the street to avoid getting too close to the other person. People in the neighborhood wave at me as I pass by them. Oddly even with the social distancing practices in place, the neighborhood feels friendlier because of all the waving. So in this case the social cues are working in our favor.

When the most common behaviors are intelligent, we can trust social cues. Those cues nudge us to behave appropriately and steer us away from problematic behaviors.

But when behaviors are unintelligent, we have to resist social cues that could lead us astray. That isn’t easy because we’re social creatures. But taking cues from other people isn’t always rational.

Leaving behind a goofy religion is another example. When your intellect wakes up and realizes that what you’ve been taught is nonsense, it’s still tough to transition out if you’re surrounded by social cues telling you that everything is fine. You have to shun the social cues and think for yourself, which isn’t easy when you’re under social pressure to turn your back on your own intellect.

In the next several months, I caution you to keep your guard up for incidents of herd stupidity. There’s likely to be a lot of it. Be careful not to fall into the trap of over-relying on social cues when they run contrary to your own best judgment. Don’t participate in the irrational herd behavior that will only cause people more pain and suffering.

More broadly, you could see this situation as an invitation to deepen your ability to trust your own rational thinking, regardless of social cues. Where else in your life could you apply this idea? Where else have you felt pressured by herd stupidity?

You’re smarter than the herd. Stand up to it.

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Read Herd Stupidity by Steve Pavlina