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Psychology Behind the Bandwagon Effect

Shashank Nakate
The bandwagon effect, also known as the 'cromo-effect', is a term used to describe a situation arising as a result of people following a certain idea, only because it is followed by a large number of people.

Jump On The Bandwagon

This phrase came into use in 1848 in American politics. Dan Rice, a clown, made use of a bandwagon when he participated in political campaigns. This led to the creation of this phrase.
In terms of psychology, the bandwagon effect is the phenomenon of spreading certain beliefs among people of a group, community, country, etc., based on the following condition or rule - the possibility of a belief to be accepted by an individual rises if a large number people have accepted it.
The phenomenon of group-think is closely associated with the bandwagon effect. People working in a group tend to maintain harmony between members of the group. To attain harmony, the members may agree upon a decision that deviates from the correct decision.
Thus, for the sake of avoiding conflict, members agree upon a point without critical evaluation. Peer pressure affects decision-making in members of group. Values, ideas, attitudes, and beliefs of the members in a group are influenced, as a result. It is one of the causes of the bandwagon effect.

Bandwagon Effect and Psychology Behind It

The bandwagon effect is also described as one of the effects or results of cognitive bias. The term cognitive bias is used in reference with deviation from a path which would lead to a correct decision. Herd effect is a derogatory term used to describe the bandwagon effect.
Herd effect or herd mentality cuts across all age groups, and is one of the common traits found in varying degrees in people around the world. However, adolescents are more vulnerable to developing this instinct.

Because We All Love Winners

It is human tendency to follow the habits, behavioral patterns, beliefs, etc., of successful people. A successful person exudes confidence. Enamored by the confidence and popularity of a successful person, one loses the clarity of thinking required to carry out reasoning.
In politics, the bandwagon effect is most commonly observed in the form of voters following a particular campaign only due to its popularity. In such cases, voters tend to support those candidates who are likely to succeed.

Fear and Bandwagon Effect

Fear of being left alone is one of the main reasons why one tends to align with the majority. Fear causes people to jump the bandwagon; therefore, fear acts as one of the biggest stimulant for the bandwagon effect to roll on. If our mind is not clouded by fear, we tend to think clearly and logically.
We are less likely to follow others blindly if our decisions are based on proper reasoning. People who 'jump the bandwagon' tend to override their own beliefs for the sake of attaining a collective agreement on a particular issue. This is done even if that person finds the collective decision to be incorrect.

Is the Bandwagon Effect Harmful?

The bandwagon effect can have harmful effects on people in the society. However, depending on circumstances, these harmful consequences may or may not be immediately noticed.
One of the harmful effects of the bandwagon effect is that hate-crimes against people of a certain community or race rise, if hateful generalizations against that group are allowed to spread freely.

In a business environment, members of a team tend to ignore certain limitations in the functioning of their team or team members.
This happens because they are inclined to support their team, irrespective of the correctness of decisions being made. These are just a few examples of people making use of the bandwagon effect in different ways for their own interest.

Dependence on Others for Information

One of the important ingredients, apart from our own thoughts and perceptions, in decision-making is 'information'. In their growing years, children receive almost all the information pertaining to their surroundings from their parents.
It is on the basis of this information that they develop most of their beliefs. Their thought processes are shaped by the beliefs they hold. In a way, children believe what their parents say. This kind of behavior may not be exactly, what we call, herd mentality, however, it cannot be described as independent thinking, free of influences, either.
Therefore, in life in general, there is always a certain dependence on someone else while making decisions.
The bandwagon effect is the result of the inability of humans or living beings in general to make their decision entirely on the basis of their own understanding or cognition. It is virtually impossible to completely abstain from getting influenced by societal pressure, trends, propaganda, etc. We have to assume certain things in life in order to move ahead and take decisions, even if we are unable to ascertain the correctness of information which supports these decisions.