Why Do People Follow The Crowd? Commonlit Answers

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  • 9th Grade
  • Lexile: 1030

Source: Why Do People Follow The Crowd? by ABC News

Assessment Answers

QuestionAnswer
Which of the following best describes a central idea of the text?“Experiments reveal that human behavior is greatly influenced by humans’ desire to fit in.”
What is meant by the word “gustatory” as it is used in paragraph 19?related to eating
What is the relationship between the people who participated in the Primetime experiments and the Germans who followed Adolf Hitler?“Both groups show that people’s actions are controlled by their need to fit in.”
Which piece of evidence supports the idea that some people can resist “the fear of standing alone”?“‘I wanted to go with what I felt was the correct answer, and trust myself, and that’s what I did,’ Graham said.” (Paragraph 14)

Summarize the article in 5-10 sentences.

The article “Why Do People Follow The Crowd?” by ABC News explores the psychological phenomenon of conformity, using experiments conducted by Dr. Gregory Berns as a primary reference.

It begins by illustrating how people often mimic others’ actions, even when they seem irrational, through examples from popular culture and then delves into Berns’ experiments. In one experiment, participants were influenced to give incorrect answers in a visual perception test, demonstrating how the presence of a group can override individual judgment.

Another experiment at a restaurant showed how people would engage in unconventional eating behaviors when prompted by others, indicating a similar conformist behavior in social settings.

The text connects these behaviors to a broader historical context, suggesting that the same underlying psychological mechanisms may have contributed to historical events of mass conformity, such as the support for Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.

It explains that conforming can stem from a desire to fit in or from the actual alteration of perceptions based on group influence.

Brain imaging during Berns’ experiments revealed that conformity can affect the areas of the brain associated with vision and fear, suggesting that peer pressure can alter our perceptions and responses to fear of isolation.

The article concludes by reflecting on the importance of recognizing these tendencies in ourselves to better guard against undue influence from the crowd.

Discussion Answers

The author suggests that we don’t like to admit to ourselves that we will readily follow the crowd. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your answer.

The statement that individuals do not like to admit they will readily follow the crowd, as suggested by the author, aligns with established psychological theories and empirical evidence.

Many people like to view themselves as independent and capable of making decisions based on their own judgments and values. This self-perception is tied to the concept of autonomy, which is a crucial aspect of self-identity and esteem.

Admitting to following the crowd can be seen as a challenge to one’s sense of individuality and autonomy, leading to cognitive dissonance—a psychological discomfort caused by holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously.

Moreover, social psychology research, including the experiments mentioned in the article, demonstrates that while people are influenced by the actions and norms of the group, there’s often a reluctance to acknowledge this influence.

This reluctance can be attributed to several factors, including a desire to be seen as rational and independent thinkers, societal valorization of individualism, especially in Western cultures, and a stigma associated with being perceived as weak-willed or easily influenced.

In conclusion, psychological theory and empirical evidence support the author’s suggestion. People may not like to admit they follow the crowd due to the implications it has for their self-perception and the perception of others, even though conformity is a common and often adaptive human behavior.


The author suggests that the desire to belong is a very powerful – if not the most powerful – human emotion. Do you agree or disagree with this assertion? Explain your answer.

The assertion that the desire to belong is a very powerful, if not the most powerful, human emotion is grounded in various psychological theories and empirical findings. Human beings are inherently social creatures, and the need for social belonging is a fundamental psychological drive, as evidenced by numerous studies and theoretical frameworks in psychology.

For instance, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places belongingness and love among the core psychological needs, just above basic physiological and safety needs. This indicates the essential role that social connections and feelings of belonging play in overall human motivation and well-being.

Further, the Social Identity Theory and the Self-Categorization Theory elaborate on how individuals derive part of their self-concept from their memberships in social groups, highlighting the importance of belonging to one’s sense of identity.

Research in social psychology has shown that social exclusion and loneliness can have severe psychological and physiological effects akin to physical pain. This underscores the depth of the human need for social connection and belonging.

Additionally, studies on conformity and group dynamics, such as the experiments mentioned in the article, demonstrate how the desire to be part of a group can significantly influence behavior and decision-making, sometimes even overriding personal beliefs or perceptions.

However, stating it as the most powerful human emotion could be subjective, as the impact of various needs and emotions can vary greatly among individuals and situations.

Other drives, such as survival, autonomy, and the pursuit of happiness, also play critical roles in human behavior and can sometimes conflict with the need for belonging.


Why do people follow the crowd? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other art, media, literature, or history in your answer.

People follow the crowd for a multitude of reasons, with psychological, social, and evolutionary underpinnings. The text from ABC News highlights several key factors through the experiments conducted by Dr. Gregory Berns. These experiments demonstrate that the desire to fit in and the fear of standing out can significantly influence individuals’ behavior, even when it contradicts their own perceptions or judgments.

For instance, in the visual perception test, participants conformed to incorrect answers given by the group, illustrating how social influence can override personal beliefs or factual information. This phenomenon is further exemplified in the restaurant experiment, where diners engaged in unusual eating behaviors following the lead of others, indicating the power of social norms and the fear of social exclusion.

From personal experience, it’s not uncommon to observe or participate in conformity in everyday situations—whether dressing in a certain way to align with fashion trends, adopting popular opinions in conversations to avoid conflict, or participating in activities because they are the norm within a social group.

These behaviors underscore the fundamental human need to belong and the discomfort associated with standing out or being ostracized.

Historically and in various forms of art, media, and literature, the theme of conformity versus individuality has been a rich area of exploration.

For example, George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” provide dystopian visions of societies where conformity is enforced to extreme levels, reflecting on the dangers of losing individual thought and freedom to the will of the collective or authority.

Similarly, the real-life events surrounding the rise of Nazism and the compliance of the German population, as mentioned in the text, serve as a stark reminder of how societal pressures and the desire to belong can lead to the abandonment of moral judgments and the participation in or acceptance of atrocities.

Art and media frequently critique or reflect on the human tendency to conform. The film “The Wave” (based on Ron Jones’ experiment) illustrates how easily individuals can be swept into group behaviors and ideologies, emphasizing the importance of awareness and critical thinking in resisting undue influence.


When is following the crowd helpful? When is it harmful? Explain your answer.

Following the crowd can be both helpful and harmful, depending on the context and outcomes of the conformity. Understanding when it leads to positive or negative consequences is crucial for individual decision-making and societal welfare.

When Following the Crowd is Helpful

Social Learning and Efficiency: Following the crowd can be beneficial when it involves learning from the collective knowledge and experiences of others. In situations where individuals lack specific knowledge or expertise, observing and mimicking the actions of the majority can be an efficient way to learn and make decisions.

This is evident in social learning theory, where observing others can lead to new behaviors and skills without direct experience.

Safety and Survival: In emergencies or unfamiliar situations, following the actions of a group can sometimes lead to safety. The herd instinct, a form of innate response found in both humans and animals, can guide individuals to safety in threatening situations, as the collective movement of the group may indicate the best escape route.

Social Harmony and Cohesion: Conforming to social norms and cultural practices helps maintain social order and cohesion. It facilitates smooth social interactions and strengthens community bonds essential for societal functioning and personal well-being.

When Following the Crowd is Harmful

Suppression of Individuality and Creativity: Excessive conformity can stifle individual expression and innovation. People too focused on fitting in may suppress their unique ideas and perspectives, leading to a homogenization of thought that can hinder creativity and progress.

Peer Pressure and Risky Behaviors: Especially among adolescents, the pressure to conform with peers can lead to engagement in risky or unhealthy behaviors, such as substance abuse or dangerous driving. The desire to be accepted or fear of rejection can override better judgment and lead to harmful consequences.

Groupthink and Poor Decision-Making: In group settings, the desire for harmony and consensus can lead to groupthink, where critical thinking and dissenting opinions are suppressed, resulting in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making processes. Historical examples, such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, illustrate how groupthink can lead to disastrous outcomes.

Moral and Ethical Compromise: Following the crowd can lead to ethical lapses when the majority violates personal or societal moral standards. The events in Nazi Germany, as mentioned in the ABC News article, serve as an extreme example of how social conformity can lead to widespread complicity in immoral acts.

In conclusion, whether following the crowd is helpful or harmful depends on the circumstances and the critical capacity of individuals to evaluate when conformity serves the greater good versus when it compromises personal integrity, creativity, or ethical standards.

Awareness and education about the psychological underpinnings of conformity can empower individuals to make informed decisions about when to conform and when to stand apart.

Other Commonlit Answers

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Avery L. Mitchell
Avery L. Mitchell
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Avery L. Mitchell is a literary enthusiast with a passion for classic literature and its enduring themes. Holding a Master's degree in English Literature from the University of Eldenbridge, Avery has spent over a decade analyzing and writing about timeless literary works. With a keen eye for detail and a deep appreciation for storytelling, Avery brings stories to life with insightful commentary and engaging narratives. When not immersed in books, Avery enjoys hiking, photography, and exploring hidden cafes in her hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.




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