Suppose someone does something a minority dislike and the majority are indifferent towards. Once the minority has struck out at the person, many of majority start striking the person out of a sense of community catharsis or joyous solidarity.

What would you call this sentiment or behaviour?

For instance, I see someone post a bad answer on a (different) stack exchange. I withhold downvoting, but then one or two people down-vote and harangue the poster, at which time I and many others start downvoting in a veritable flood; with a sense of warped pleasure that that poor poster isn't us. Isn't One of Us, at least for today.

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    Do you mean Herd/crowd/mob mentality or behavior? – Jim Nov 7 '14 at 4:04
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    @Jim It is likely a variation of that. But I hoping for specific word or phase; sort of like schadenfreude is specific flavour of crowd behaviour (i.e. you can't usefully experience schadenfreude without comparative peer assessment). – LateralFractal Nov 7 '14 at 4:08
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    So a word for the idea that "even though I know it's wrong, it's okay if I do it as long as I do it as part of a sufficiently large group"? – Jim Nov 7 '14 at 4:10
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    "Bandwagon effect", "piling on", "herd mentality", and "ganging up" are all slightly different but acceptable ways of saying what you are describing. Personally, I'm just waiting to see if people upvote or downvote your question before I decide what I do. – Thomas Nov 7 '14 at 15:01
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    "Lynch party" comes to mind. – Hot Licks Nov 7 '14 at 20:40

I think it is bandwagon effect.

The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others.

In other words, the bandwagon effect is characterized by the probability of individual adoption increasing with respect to the proportion who have already done so. As more people come to believe in something, others also "hop on the bandwagon" regardless of the underlying evidence.


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Image source: https://sites.google.com/site/apgovvocabwiki45/unit-3-terms/bandwagon-effect

Bandwagon effect shows itself in negative situations too, of course. It is often mentioned along with your very own example about crescendo-like downvoting ceremony. [See: Google Search] [Your downvoting example is even used as bandwagon downvoting in internet jargon]

Some examples from online communities (first one is from our own meta stackexchange):

Bandwagon effect: When one user sees a post that has a few upvotes or downvotes and decides to cast his/her vote the same way as the popular opinion.


For the first few hours after a submission is created, the score is not displayed. This is intended to mitigate the bandwagon effect.


...the bandwagon effect kicks in and people will have seen the negative score before they even read the comment and the pre-judgement begins to show.


The reason I feel having it visible is wrong is because of the whole bandwagon effect it has on people. If someone sees a downvoted post, they are more likely to disagree or even ignore it because "everyone else doesn't like it so it must be wrong". The inverse is also true for visible upvotes; "everyone else likes this so it must be right".


As a bonus, some studies about the topic:

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    +1 Good one. – Jim Nov 7 '14 at 4:22
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    That data mining article is fascinating. Great find. – LateralFractal Nov 7 '14 at 6:44
  • The 'Bandwagon Effect', or 'jumping on the bandwagon' seems pretty good, and it certainly can be used in negative situations, but it doesn't carry a negative connotation by itself the way 'piling on', 'ganging up', or 'forming a lynch mob' would. – DCShannon Nov 8 '14 at 3:58
  • @DCShannon: Yes, but this is a well-defined phenomenon used exactly for these situations. His down-voting example can easily be applied to up-voting also. There is a term like "bandwagon down-voting" too. Also, "piling on" and "ganging up" are actually too general, it can just mean that a lot of people are criticizing. And bandwagon effect can cause piling on or ganging up. – ermanen Nov 8 '14 at 4:51
  • I don't remember seeing this post at all. Good answer. I was thinking of this, when I offered my suggestion: jumping on the bandwagon to your recent question. – Mari-Lou A Mar 3 '15 at 10:37

What you describe sounds like piling on. That is the practice of people joining in to attack or hurt someone, once a certain number of people has already done so. The number of people it takes for the threshold, before lots of people pile on, could be referred to as a critical mass.

The term piling on comes originally from sports.

(The term critical mass comes from the threshold amount of fissile material to initiate a sustaining chain fission reaction.)

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This is often referred to as Herd mentality:

It is described in Wikipedia as:

Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items.

In your case, it describes how people were influenced to vote by their peers.

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What you described, i.e. "at which time I and many others start downvoting in a veritable flood; with a sense of warped pleasure that that poor poster isn't us" sounds like Mobbing:

Mobbing in the context of human beings means bullying of an individual by a group in any context, such as a family, friends, peers, school, workplace, neighborhood, community, or online.

It's also called "ganging up".


According to the authors of Workplace Mobbing: Expulsion, Exclusion, and Transformation, workplace "mobbing" is not generally a familiar term—it is not well-understood in some English speaking countries. Some researchers claim that mobbing is simply another name for bullying.

See also "Herd mentality", "mob behaviour", "gang mentality", etc.

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  • +1 for 'ganging up', but I'm only familiar with 'mobbing' from gaming or sports, where a group that is doing so is being very aggressive in attacking the opposition. – DCShannon Nov 8 '14 at 4:00

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