To some extent we all follow the crowd. We like to feel included and to feel like we have people who can relate to us. For a lot of my life I've been really opposed to mainstream things like pop music or television, but even within counter-culture, I knew folks who shared similar convictions. Apparently looking for confirmation in the crowd is behaviorally observable, and in fact you can change people's minds by providing consistent displays of an opposing perspective. According to Robert B. Cialdini PH.D., this is because "one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct."
Have you ever found yourself laughing just because the people around you are laughing? Maybe the joke isn't that funny objectively, when you really think about it, but you just joined on in.
Sometimes I listen to a band and I'm not immediately attracted to their sound, but then my brother likes it, and my best friend likes it, and I think, well I must have just missed something.
Every once and a while there's an altercation on the bus or the train here in NYC, and two people are acting aggressively towards each other either physically or vocally, and all I can do is allow my heart to pound in my chest and look at the people around me to see if they're scared. Fortunately I've never found myself in a dangerous or harmful situation where something like that escalated while I was trapped in a high-speed metal box with them. Nobody in the crowd around me has ever started ducking punches or pried open the train doors or anything in extreme panic, so the things just die down.
So this theory can be used in our favor, too. I think it's a big reason why pop stars in music videos are either surrounded by adoring fans or some sort of beautiful posse. It gives the appearance that these stars are worthy of praise and attention. Or if you've done your research you can prove a point by providing evidence in like a debate or essay or article something. People totally do that all the time.
Or it could be used in an unfairly persuasive context, like to get someone to do something they don't feel comfortable with. This is exactly where peer pressure comes from, and certain aspects of rape culture. On the flip side, folks who practice consent culture work to turn this around by proving with their actions that it's commonplace to respect everyone's boundaries, that it's normal to not want to go along with something if you feel uncomfortable, and knowing that sometimes people don't feel comfortable speaking up because the crowd (whether present or imaginary) is going in a different direction.
Just thoughts. I like people.
P.S. thanks, everyone who's been buying the Amazon books on commission! You can find Influence here.