The logical fallacy known as the argument from popularity or ad populi is one that pervades modern culture though is seldom recognized. The premise of this can be summed up as “Everyone else is doing it”, and is a subcategory of the argument from authority fallacy. Essentially this kind of reasoning is fallacious if it is used to try and prove or support the truth of a statement, proposition or practice based solely on the popularity of it. In other words it is the “Fifty Million Frenchmen can’t be wrong” sort of thinking. Examples of this are not hard to find our culture of trends and fads. For instance a common example would be starting smoking, rationally there are no good reasons to do so and yet people do. On at least the subconscious level one of the deciding factors would be that many other people smoke and in particular those that we admire or are close to do.
Other examples might include vitamin supplements, cosmetics, choices in clothes, recreational activities and religious observances. On the whole it does not matter whether we do things to conform to public opinion or to stand apart from it. But it helps to recognise that sometimes the reasons we have come not necessarily from any objective standpoint but something more nebulous and group oriented. Do I buy a sports car because I weighed the pros and cons, considered the fuel consumption, reliability and practicality or because I was raised in a culture that values superficial status symbols and flashy materialistic objects?
My aim here isn’t to berate anyone for bowing to peer pressure or public perception but to point out that the majority rules type of thinking may be the best way we know of to govern a country but may not be the best way to live a life. So long as when making the decisions that count people realise what might be influencing the way they look at the issues and balance the views of the group with more objective measures. Don’t drink the kool-aid just because everyone else is doing it.