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Shear statistical sense

This ‘flock mentality’ probably explains the reason behind why we sometimes following a fashion trend blindly without bothering to check whether it suits us or not.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2008 21:14 IST

Humans are like sheep and have a flock mentality, a new study tells us. We must admit that we were feeling pretty sheepish after reading this, considering it does not sound a very charitable description. But after reading the report thoroughly, we gathered that there is only one similarity between the two. The study, published in the Animal Behavior Journal, finds it may take a minority of about 5 per cent of people to influence the other 95 per cent of a crowd of more than 200 people to go in the same direction. The researchers added that this flock mentality could be put to good use. On one extreme, it could be used to inform emergency planning strategies and at the other, it could be useful in organising pedestrian flow in busy areas.

This ‘flock mentality’ probably explains the reason behind why we sometimes following a fashion trend blindly without bothering to check whether it suits us or not. Or, follow the swish set to the sushi table when the smell of the dish is enough to knock you into a dead faint. However, in India it can be a boon to have this herd mentality. Visit any public place, say, a railway station, and you will know what we mean: a ‘sheep’ mentality will probably put some order into the chaos.

But being associated to the animal, etymologically or otherwise, is not all that bad. They are smart animals as we have seen in Leonie Swann’s Three Bags Full in which a flock of sheep living in Ireland set about solving the mystery of the death of their shepherd. Feeling sheepish, aren’t we? Oh, let’s just grin and baa it.