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I'm wanting to read more about a certain human behavior, but I am not sure what the proper term for it is, so some of the things I am finding aren't what I am looking for. I'm interested in how Humans will often "follow the leader" and act as sheep, believing what they're told without applying much critical thinking. I thought this was called Herd Mentality, but Wikipedia describes that as:

Herd mentality implies a fear-based reaction to peer pressure which makes individuals act in order to avoid feeling "left behind" from the group

That is close to what I am thinking about. However Wikipedia relates Herd Mentality to Group intelligence and Wisdom of the crowd... which is ironic as those are the exact opposite of what I am looking for.

Examples of the behavior I am thinking of:

  • Sometimes high-rep users on Stack Exchange sites post poor questions or answers. Often these get upvotes even though they're incorrect, because people "follow the leader" and don't think about the actual answer.
  • Religious leaders often influence their congregations on how to vote, and many members will vote that way even though what they're voting for may not really be what they believe it because they don't think about what they're voting for so they don't realize it.
  • As an extreme example: Many good, moral people somehow shut off their ability to think logically and supported Hitler and the Holocaust.

What is the name for Human's tendency to follow a leader blindly, without thinking? Is this an actual psychological phenomenon and if so, what papers could I read to learn more about it?

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A person's tendency to react to a situation depends on a Threshold Value(TV) of the number of people he wants to see reacting before reacting himself and it may not be entirely proportional to intelligence. So if there are 10 people and if 3 people wear purple hats, I may also wear the hat if my TV is 3 but if my TV is 4, I would wait for an another person to wear the hat before wearing it myself. The Granovetter model could explain some of this phenomenon. Also, the bandwagon effect may also explain this phenomenon in political decisions. –  Ubermensch Jun 7 '12 at 12:32
    
Few other terms that explain the causes mentioned by you - GroupThink, socio-centric thinking, Ingroup bias. I prefer socio-centric thinking. –  Ubermensch Jun 7 '12 at 12:35
    
Relevant terms that come to mind include conformity, obedience, propaganda, and even leadership. –  Jeromy Anglim Jun 7 '12 at 12:41
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But leadership is used in a more positive term. @JoshGitlin The Wikipedia article is so small. The possible term is Herd instinct/Herd behavior and its a recognized cognitive bias. –  Ubermensch Jun 7 '12 at 12:42
    
@Ubermensch "leadership" is often used in a positive sense, but there are many perspectives on leaership. If we take the definition from Wikipedia, leadership is “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". The definition is neutral as to whether the "common task" is for the good of the followers or the good of society. –  Jeromy Anglim Jun 7 '12 at 23:35
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2 Answers

Obedience

The most famous paper dealing with this issue is Milgram's paper, called Behavioral study of obedience[1]. From the abstract:

This article describes a procedure for the study of destructive obedience in the laboratory. It consists of ordering a naive subject to administer increasingly more severe punishment to a victim in the context of a learning experiment.


[1] Behavioral Study of obedience, Milgram, S. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1963. doi: 10.1037/h0040525 PDF link

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Hmmmm... Obedience has far too positive a connotation to it in my mind, but technically it is what I am asking about. Maybe "Blind Obedience" is a better term for what I am describing. That paper looks interesting, I'll read it and comment back! –  Josh Gitlin Jun 8 '12 at 12:55
    
Obedience is a form of the word "obey" in the title. It doesn't take into account the "without thinking" aspect. I don't know if any English word does. –  John Pick Jul 23 '12 at 20:03
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Could you be talking about conformity:

e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformity

and/or

groupthink http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink ?

In addition to the famous Milgram studies which you may have already heard about:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

There's quite a lengthy literature on these issues but those links should get you started.

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