The bandwagon effect defines the effect of herd behavior in which individuals behave like sheep of Panurge. Or the fact that some undecided minds end up taking their decision late imitating what the majority thinks or does.
This phenomenon has been used:
– in economics by Leibenstein in 19501, to characterize situations where the increase in consumption of a good can be explained in reality by its mere popularity.
– Iin political science – especially in analyzes of elections – to characterize opinion effects caused by the behavior of some undecided voters who voted at the last minute as the presumed majority “and tend to fall into the camp victory. “
Explanations by social pressure
Social pressure exists and encourages us to mimicry, to a consistent behavior. In an ambiguous or difficult situation to resolve it, the choice of the majority may seem more acceptable as many others share.
The pressure to conform is so powerful that it defies any form of rationality or critical. Examples of using this bandwagon effect is “4 among 5 doctors recommend …”, slap in a theater, the coins in a bowl.
In the case of a human group in limbo, all behaviors seeming accepted will be adopted. This explains why the passengers of a bus remain motionless during a rape or murder. There are so many spectators that nobody dares move. Everyone thinks that because nobody moves, the situation is not critical. For the same reason, it is more difficult to get help for a broken-down car on a crowded highway than on a small road almost deserted. It is ignorance of what to do that blocks the action of the crowd.
Identification with another person, because “it’s like us” significantly strengthens the hype. The testimonies of ordinary people on television are becoming powerful. Reality TV becomes a reference for how to behave. During a lesson, learning is much easier to accept if the teacher is similar to the student. This can be seen with the correlation between the publication on the front page of a suicide and a wave of suicides. Very violent boxing matches have a similar effect. The following imitate what they read.
The effect is a way to compensate his ignorance in a difficult situation. It is often useful to be able to adapt to a group before knowing him.
If many people have a given behavior, it can be more easily accepted. This provides a great power for film and television. These media can literally shape a society. Aberrant cult but well insulated from outside influences can be judged entirely rational based on the hype. This explains that it can be used to deliberately to influence opinions, attitudes and ideas. Communication strategies used as a method of persuasion prescription, the testimony of customers-reference, the use of opinion leaders, or the most questionable storytelling techniques.
The consequences of mimicry can be harmful: Sheep of Panurge from the Fourth Book of Francois Rabelais are an example. The philosopher René Girard has highlighted the weight of mimicry in social life, which can lead to reassure the phenomenon of creation of Scapegoat.