How To Avoid Groupthink And Destroy Your Herd Mentality | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | Social Psychology How To Avoid Groupthink And Destroy Your Herd Mentality | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | Social Psychology

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How To Avoid Groupthink And Destroy Your Herd Mentality

 groupthink psychology training | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | conformity social psychology education

 “Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” 

Peter McWilliams (Author, You Can’t Afford The Luxury Of A Negative Thought)

“Sometimes you’ve got to be able to listen to yourself and be okay with no one else understanding.”

Christopher Barzak (Author, One for Sorrow)

 “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” 

Aristotle (Greek Philosopher and Scientist)


The lifeguards yelled for everyone to get out of the water.

They kept yelling until over 1,000 people were standing on the edge of the beach.

I was 10 years old and had never seen anything like this before.

What was going on?

Two groups of five lifeguards got into separate parts of the lake, held hands, and started combing through the water.

Two other lifeguards were going through the crowds of people on the beach asking questions.

What were they looking for?

Like everyone else, I was annoyed that I had to get out of the lake and stand on the hot sand with the sun beating down on me.

But my annoyance turned into concern as I slowly realized the lifeguards might be looking for someone who was drowned or drowning.

“Have any of you seen a kid named Isaiah?”

One of the lifeguards asked us.

I was standing on the beach with my parents and a few of my friends.

A little earlier my friends and I had been playing on a dock in the middle of the lake.

We were jumping off of it and diving underneath it to look for rocks and coins.


As soon as the lifeguard said my name my heart sunk.

I knew exactly what was going on.

The lifeguards thought I had drowned.

I found out later that one of them saw me dive under the dock but didn’t see me come back up on the other side.

I looked up at my parents, bracing for their fury.

But they were too stunned to say anything.

So I looked over at one of my friends who was standing with me.

He was one of the more popular kids in school who would sometimes hang out with me and sometimes wouldn’t.

He started laughing hysterically.

“You’re looking for Isaiah?! He’s right here HAHAHAHA!”

I didn’t know what to do so I started laughing too.

That didn’t go over well.

I was banned from the beach for the rest of the summer and grounded for a month.

I still feel bad about laughing.

I can’t remember why I laughed.

I just remember it feeling like the right thing to do at the time.

What Is Groupthink?

Groups are slow and reactive.

Studies published in Science magazine on groupthink, or herd mentality, show that humans and other animals respond to external changes with very low levels of cognition.

Large groups are often led, not by the conscious choices of each individual, but by a mob-like collection of dull, subconscious responses.

Other studies published in Nature magazine on leadership and decision-making show that adding more intelligent people to a group does not help the group achieve its goals any faster.

For example, a group of 200 people will perform the same whether 10 or 100 of them are intelligent.

In other words, when it comes to achieving your personal goals, fitting into a group is often the worst thing you can do.

This is because fitting in puts you at the mercy of the group’s desires.

While your desires may be specific and rational, the group’s desires are vague and often irrational.

As a result, group decisions frequently lack creativity, accuracy, and individual responsibility.

This practice of thinking and making decisions as a group is called groupthink.

The only way to avoid groupthink is by rejecting the group and learning to think on your own.what is herd mentality | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | herd mentality psychology

3 Strategies For Overcoming Herd Mentality 

Trying to fit into a larger group does not benefit you or the group.

Standing out is the only way to reach your fullest potential. It’s also the only way to help others reach their fullest potential.

If you think fitting in will help you get ahead in life, you’re wrong.

Fitting in will cause you to make false assumptions and incorrect decisions. 

Conformity is leadership suicide. It’s impossible to conform and be a leader at the same time.

Leadership requires differentiation.

No matter what you set out to do, achieving your goal will require you to differentiate yourself from the group.

The best way to do this is not by working harder to create distance, but by working smarter to create perspective.

The goal is not to isolate yourself, but to be yourself.

By being an individual, you’ll stand out and gain a broader perspective on your life.

Never forget—you are biologically wired to conform. Your instinct to follow the herd will affect every decision you make until the day you die.

You can’t negate this urge to conform, but you can manage and overcome it.

The key is recognizing when you’re making decisions based on other people’s desires versus your own and developing strategies to correct this.

Here are 3 strategies for overcoming conformity and avoiding groupthink…

1. Know who you are.

The only way to differentiate yourself from the group is to develop your identity.

Your identity shouldn’t fit the mold of anyone or anything else.

You should be different.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should isolate yourself or act like a jerk so no one wants to be around you.

It means you should take time to figure out who you are, what you want, and how you want to live your life.

It means finding your purpose in life and designing your perfect day in line with your purpose.

Only then will you be in a position to remove the negative people from your life and instead, surround yourself with positive and like-minded people.

Connecting with like-minded people and fitting in with a group are two different things. 

As counter-intuitive as it might seem, trying to fit in will actually prevent you from authentically connecting with other people.

When you choose to be yourself and stick out, you’ll attract friends who are truly like you—the real you.

Instead of influencing you to be someone your not, true friends will naturally force you to be yourself.

Don’t make the mistake of compromising on yourself to fit in.

Don’t slowly give away who you really are in the hopes of pleasing others.

Take a stand and define who you are and what you want, without compromise and without apology.

 2. Get comfortable with conflict. 

Your success in life is proportional to the number of uncomfortable situations you’re willing to put yourself in. 

Too many people allow themselves to cowardly conform to the people they hang out with the most.

Without realizing it, they start aligning their thoughts and actions with the people they work with or the people they live with.

This is a mistake.

You should never allow yourself to passively align with anyone or anything other than the personal goals you’ve actively mapped out for your life.

The problem is, staying true to your personal goals is hard.

This is because the biological urge to conform and follow the herd is very strong. And if you don’t conform, the herd will react.

The group will pressure you to fit in by making your life uncomfortable until you do.

The only way to protect yourself against this kind of social pressure is to beef up your resistance to it.

You need to start getting comfortable with conflict.

You need to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The more you differentiate yourself from any group, the more the group will fight against you.

There is absolutely no way to avoid this.

The best you can do is to develop better and better strategies for dealing with confrontation.

The key is to actively put yourself in the middle of adversity and negative situations.

By routinely dealing with confrontation, you can rise above it.

By gaining perspective over negative situations, you protect yourself from making decisions that are good for others but not-so-good for you.

 3. Disagree before you agree. 

Defiance helps liberate yourself and others from social pressure.

The Solomon Asch experiment was first conducted in 1951 when Asch, the psychologist, brought together small groups of college students for a “visual perception study.”

But instead of testing visual perception, the study was really testing the effects of conformity and social proof.

During the experiment, every student, except one, was a planted actor who knew the nature of the experiment.

The actors were instructed to give incorrect answers to very simple questions that involved matching black lines on white cards.

The real subject, who was the only one not aware of the real experiment, was asked each question after hearing the planted actors’ answers.

Again and again (up to 36% of the time), the real subject knowingly answered incorrectly against clear visual evidence in order to fit in with the group.

This is the equivalent of saying the sky is green just because four other people said it first. 

But that wasn’t the end of the overall experiment.

The part you rarely hear about is what happened when another actor was planted in the group and instructed to provide a truthful answer in the face of a misleading majority.

Studies reported in Asch’s Scientific American paper show that one truthful person defying the majority dropped the error rate from 36% to 5.5%.

In other words, all it took was one person to disagree with the majority to free someone else from the social pressure they were feeling. 

This is the liberating power of defiance.

The pressure to agree with any group is intense. The pressure to agree with even one person can be very strong.

This is why so many people find themselves passively agreeing with others during group meetings or even one-on-one conversations.

Then these same people wonder why they never quite stand out for a promotion at work or reach any of their personal goals in life.

If you want to start getting ahead in life, stop blindly agreeing with people.

Stop nodding and saying “yes” just because it’s easier than disagreeing with someone.

Instead, disagree first.

Question what other people are saying.

By disagreeing, you’ll engage your brain more consciously and force yourself to consider what’s being said or done.

There’s no harm in doing this because you can always agree later.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is ignoring the fact that social pressure exists. Instead, you should face this pressure head on by developing strategies for managing and overcoming it. You must actively define who you are and what you want. The stronger your identity, the less the group can affect you. You must also get comfortable with conflict. When you start following your own desires over the desires of the group, the group will come against you. Don’t shy away from this. Relish it. Invite it. Finally, you must trust yourself and stop blindly agreeing with everyone. Don’t be afraid to disagree first and question what others are saying.

To learn more about overcoming groupthink, social pressure, and herd mentality to be successful, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.


You Comment, Isaiah Responds

  • Brian Self

    Outstanding post!

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Glad you liked it!

  • Daisy

    Many of us are victim of groupthink. Remember one thing that you cannot achieve anything on your own until you think as an individual instead of groupthink. We all had the wrong belief about herd mentality, we have to break it and need to become an individual thinker.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Absolutely, Daisy. Remember that it is in our very nature to succumb to groupthink. We crave approval from our peers and while it seems that this approval will make us leaders, it does not; it just keeps us as part of the herd.

  • Luke Bell

    It is very difficult to be a leader and follow the rules at the same time. So you have to differentiate yourself from the group and create your own identity. Ignore the pressure of conformation and just be yourself. Then you can the purpose to live your life.

  • Alice

    I love the quote by Aristotle, “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” So if you have to something in your life that makes you proud and also help other people, you have to do something against the rules and bear criticism. And criticism helps you to be a better person. So start getting comfortable with conflicts.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Exactly, Alice. If you receive criticism, it’s a sign that you’re thinking for yourself. Criticism comes with the territory if you want to achieve something great. Accept it and thrive in it.

  • Adam Grant

    It was very poor what happened to you in your childhood. It happened with me too, many times! But now I understand that only coward people with herd mentality go with groupthink. They simply do not have courage to think on their own. They all need to think about their personal goals and have courage to present them to the world.

  • katherine

    You have to get conformable with conflicts in your life. When I was in school, I want all the things nice and easy and it was. But as I get older and went to high school and graduation, I came to know that you have to represent your view to others and it’ll create conflict with them. Now this is the crucial point in your life, your decision will change your life. Either you agree with groupthink and or you can create your own path in your life. The decision is in your hand.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Absolutely, Katherine. Good for you for coming to this conclusion at a relatively young age. Many people go their whole lives trying to be people-pleasers, never wanting to rock the boat and they end up stifling their potential in the process.

  • Jeremy

    I saw many people trying anything to fit in the group. But remember that when you try to fit in the group and not join it for mutual benefits, you lost your individual identity. And you cannot achieve anything in your life with your personal identity and goals. Don’t change your perspective to fit in the group.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Exactly, Jeremy. Your personal identity, values and goals should never be compromised just for the warm fuzzy feeling of fitting in. It’s too big a sacrifice. Always move forward.

  • Noel Holmes

    We all need to get comfortable with conflict. It is the key of a successful life. When your views differ from every group member, conflicts happen. And you have to face it, there is no way you can avoid it. The best thing you can do is you can create better strategies for dealing with them. Great article!

  • Willie

    Herd mentality prevents youth from creating direct growth. So you have to think on your own apart from the group. It’ll create issues and conflicts in group, but you have to learn to handle them. This is the only way you can grow exponentially. Stop saying yes to someone because it’s difficult to argue with them. Disagree with them and create your own thinking.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Well said, Willie. The discomfort from causing conflict is nothing compared to the pain of stunting your own personal growth. And you’re not doing the herd any favors by just agreeing with everyone all of the time either.

  • Diana

    Every person has his own different identity and that’s why we don’t fit into anyone’s thinking. We have to connect with like-minded people who help us to find purpose in our lives and set our goals. And designing perfect day is the best way to start the journey.

  • Ruby McAlistor

    Connecting with like-minded people and try to fit in the group are different. When you are in the group, everyone is just acting like they are fit for the group. And when you are surrounded with like-minded people you act naturally and you can help each other to achieve your goals in life.

  • Iva Kubíková

    Great post! It really changed my perspective on ‘being nice to people’. It feels so right, reading what you have to say. It’s like hearing the other person in the group saying that the sky is not green. I need to read your posts more often.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Thanks Iva, I’m glad it resonated with you. Looking forward to engaging with you in the private Escape Plan group. It’s been fun already.

  • Tamara Chappell

    Isaiah, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read. I experienced this phenomenon this week when I naively told some very personal information on a new forum, asking for the group’s advice. There were over 100 posters that attacked my perceptions and made some terrible accusations about me that quite honestly, blew me away. I thought a normal decent person would understand my postition and show compassion. It was clear to me they were coming from a place of subjectivity, jealousy and projection and I was quite shocked. Fortunately, their were 10 or so posters who completely agreed with me and reprimanded the majority for being unfair and harsh. These turned out to not only be the the most compassionate posters, but the most intelligent… who showed an ability for critical thinking and just plain good instincs. I can’t begin to tell you what a life savor they were to me. At the end when most people stopped posting, the “wolves” (or “hens”) of the pack kept coming back to circle in , saying I was stubborn because I hadn’t listened to the majority. They were not only the least intelligent of the group , they were the nastiest in spirit and in words. This told me alot about their ability to discern truth ..and even more about herd mentality. Although I took into consideration what each of them said, I’m proud that I didn’t waver. I told them I wasn’t interested in the majority of opinions just for the sake of them being the “majority” and answered each poster authentically. This experience could’ve made me bitter about people, but instead it was a tremendous gift. It’s caused me to trust in my own perception even more, and to have hope that even though perceptive/critical thinkers are the minority, they are out there. I haven’t felt this free in a long time.