“Do you think you are better than everyone else? Well?!”
I immediately knew that the pause had done, done me in. Her stare turned into a glare and with a quick heel-turn she exited, stage left.
We instinctively know that the only answer to such a question is a quick, unequivocal, “NO”. But for me, it is all about context.
A vacationing family’s car breaks down in the middle of the night on the interstate; everyone is speeding past, but you stop to render assistance. Doesn’t that make you better than everyone else?
How about you are walking downtown and an elderly woman falls down several yards ahead of you. Everyone steps around or over the injured person, not you. You stop and render assistance.
Better? Of course.
A house is on fire, and everyone is watching, but you run in to rescue a trapped child. Are you better than everyone else? Absolutely!
The issue is with herd, or mob, mentality. There have been multiple studies that provide evidence of how groups of people are influenced by those surrounding them. In a study by researchers at Leeds University volunteers were asked to randomly walk around a large hall without talking to each other.
The experiment revealed that people ended up following one or two “instructed” individuals who appear to know where they’re going, without ever knowing why. Most strikingly, this study showed that it only took 5% of confident-looking (and instructed) people to influence the direction of the other 95% of people in the crowd.
This type of group thinking is not isolated to just social behavior, but in Crowd Wisdom critical thinking can be disrupted.
Wisdom of the Crowd is defined as the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than that of a single expert.
There have been examples of a large group’s aggregated answers to questions, involving quantity estimation or spatial reasoning, has generally been found to be as good as (and often better than) the answer given by a single individual within the group.
But specific answers requiring advanced study or experience fall far short of the answers given by acknowledged experts.
Everyone says that human flight is impossible, so you develop a working wingsuit. You’re better.
Everyone knows that an object can’t do two different things at the same time. Except a team of UC Santa Barbara physicists did it with a quantum machine in 2010. They were better.
What incredible inventions, discoveries or cures will be found by those better than everyone else.
Who knows you may even be saved by someone who doesn’t go along with the crowd and actually stops to help.
So next time you think you are better than everyone else, my advice to you is; Please Be!