Bandwagon Effect

Psychology reveals both fascinating and scary tendencies amongst people. One of these frightening realities is known as the “bandwagon effect,” and many people have heard of it. When something becomes popular, whether it be a fashion trend, a political trend, or something entirely different, people “jump on the bandwagon.”

In politics, people vote for the candidate the believe most likely to succeed. However, their votes are also what determine that in the first place, and if they are basing their decision on the pragmatic significance of their vote, the reality is that a single vote is worth relatively little. Economists have estimated the value of a vote in an American presidential election at as low as 2 cents. In other words, you can create as much social change by helping an elderly women cross the street or donating a dollar to a local charity.

People vote out of a sense of civic duty of “the greater good” in many cases. If that’s the justification, individuals should vote purely based on who the best candidate is. People should not criticize someone for voting for a third party, the third party should criticize others for merely going with the popular opinion. In fat, people are so swayed by the opinions of others that many countries prevent the release of election winners until all polls have closed. People will change their opinion because of how other people are choosing to vote.

Similarly, the world of entertainment is full of examples of the bandwagon. A sports team enters into the playoffs, and there are suddenly fans everywhere. When a band becomes popular, everyone claims they like them. High schools are notorious examples of the bandwagon effect being demonstrated. Students rarely deviate from what is expected of them, though arguably adults are just as guilty of conformity. People not only conform out of fear, but they also conform because they believe the majority is right. The fact that 90% of people like something or support X doesn’t mean they are right. Any number of people can be wrong just the same.

And in the economy, people are always buying more than they can afford. They need the next big thing regardless of how useful it is. People purchase a large hard-drive they will never fill or more ram than they could ever use. The Ipad is relatively unspectacular given the price of similar electronics that have more capability. Even those who like Apple can recognize that people are jumping on a bandwagon with respect to this device. Most of the people purchasing it would get more benefits from a different purchase. The amount of people taking advantage of its unique capabilities is relatively slim.

Overall, the bandwagon effect is an interesting social phenomenon, but it continues to have frightening implications. It’s essential that people be educated in critical thinking to minimize the tendency individuals have to “follow the herd.” Historically, the bandwagon effect has arguably contributed to a variety of atrocities. People should think for themselves, and many don’t.