What is herd behavior ?
It is a behavioral pattern where in animals and humans in large numbers , tend to behave in the same way at the same time without application of mind .
Herd behavior in human societies
Herd behaviour describes how individuals in a group can act together without planned direction. The term pertains to the behaviour of animals in herds, flocks, and schools, and to human conduct during activities such as stock market bubbles and crashes, street demonstrations, sporting events, episodes of mob violence and even everyday decision making, judgement and opinion forming. This is very much applicable to medical profession also.(Ref:Wikipedia)
Herd behaviour in animals and human how they are different ?
“surprise ! surprise ! There is very little difference noted , according to Hamilton”
A group of animals fleeing a predator shows the nature of herd behavior. In the often cited article “Geometry For The Selfish Herd,” evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton said each individual group member reduces the danger to itself by moving as close as possible to the center of the fleeing group. Thus the herd appears to act as a unit in moving together, but its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-seeking individuals.
Among humans for example when panicked individuals confined to a room with two equal and equidistant exits, a majority will favor one exit while the minority will favor the other.
Medical professionals as a herd
The practicing habits of medical professionals move , symmetrically as a herd . When a top journal or a opinion leader utters something every one tend to move in that direction .
If a herd leader says a particular treatment is great, every one will say yes . If he says nay every one will say nay !
No one will really question the direction they move ? Unless the correction occurs from within the herd. No external forces usually are effective.Herding is also benefitial many times as rapid propogation of scientific facts needs such behavior ,but it needs constant scrutiny.
Herd behavior example 1 : The most typical example is the drug prescribing pattern of anti hypertensive agents over the past half century.The movement from diuretics to beta blocker , from beta blockers to calcium blockers and to ACE inhibitor and again to diuretic , then to ARBs and currently shying strongly away from beta blockers, in between have a brief encounter with alpha blockers and finally back to diuretics.
If a particular physician by his insight , had clinged onto diuretics ( Away from the herd ) for over three decades he is a real exemption , although branded old timed and unscientific , he has been the most scientific medical professional indeed !
Herd mentality example 2 : Every one says so ! so it must be true ! Hormone replacement therapy good or bad goes with the leader of the herd .
Herd mentality example 3: Very few cardiologists will be ready to agree the fact that , simple digoxin and diuretic ,ACEI, beta blocker, administration could be as effective as the costly cardiac resynchronisation therapy in atleast some of patients with wide QRS cardiac failure ( As we know up to 30 % wide QRS CHF population do not respond to CRT)
Defying Herd mentality resulted in major break throughs in medicine
When every one was saying beta blocker was harmful in CHF one person from Briton defied it ( Wagenstein, and now beta blockers are the mainstay in the management of CHF! )
There are hundreds of treatment modalities popularised by such herd behavior
Who is the watch dog , whether science is moving in the correct direction ?
Read this land mark article how medical research can be distorted by such learned behavior and how scientific research should not be done .
Click on the image .
This post is not intended to hurt anyone . It reflects , human beings are not fully evolved yet , in the onging process of evolutionary biology.
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