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To Follow or Not to Follow…

“All persons ought to endeavor to follow what is right, and not what is established.” ― Aristotle

The classic question has always been; if everyone is jumping off a bridge, would you?  This case seems extreme, but it brings up a good point about human psychology.  We tend to follow what others are doing, even if we do not agree or like what the majority does.  One example is in social media.  On Facebook, one’s newsfeed is filled with friend’s photos, status updates and articles.  Under each of these items, there is a “like” button that users can click to express their interest in that item.  Sometimes, the amount of “likes” an item accumulates can be in the hundreds, even thousands.  But what makes these items have so many likes?

The herd mentality plays a large role in influencing what people “like” on their newsfeed.  In this video, herd mentality on social media is explained as a way for people to be accepted by others and to “hop on the bandwagon”.  People’s behavior on Facebook was studied and the result illustrated the herd mentality concept.  It is often the case that when a picture or article has many “likes” and it shows up on someone’s newsfeed, they will often “like” the item regardless of their own personal opinion.  They notice that others, including their friends, liked the item, so in order to not be left out, they “like” it too.  This way of thinking (or lack of) is a type of information cascade.  In lecture, we described information cascades as a situation where each person makes a decision or choice based on the choices of others while ignoring his own personal information.

This video by DNews gives an overview of the herd mentality, and you can see how this mentality creates information cascades:

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