What do you call when someone does something that they already wanted to do but only do it because they saw someone else do it?

For example the Brexit business, or America after Trump became president. After these phenomenons people started saying racist things, and it kind of revealed what they actually wanted to say, but only did so because other people were doing it too. They probably know it's bad, but they want to say it, and they do because other people are saying it too, I assume.

I'm giving a presentation on Brexit and the title would be something like this: "Brexit and racism: causation, correlation and _______"

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    – tchrist
    Feb 2 '17 at 23:06

I would suggest:

Brexit and racism: causation, correlation, and polarization

While not an exact fit to the circumstance you describe, I think it is a suitable notion given the political nature of your topic.

In the world of politics, polarization (or polarisation) can refer to the divergence of political attitudes to ideological extremes. Polarization can refer to such divergence like public opinion or even to such divergence within certain groups. Almost all discussions of polarization in political science consider polarization in the context of political parties and democratic systems of government. When polarization occurs in a two-party system, like the United States, moderate voices often lose power and influence.

The notion would be that because of the polarized political atmosphere, the electorate attempts to align themselves with some extreme group that seems to offer a safe political option. The consequence is that you may find a growing cluster of people that promote racism.


The common phrase for this is "monkey see, monkey do" but that probably doesn't fit as the title of a serious presentation.

More generically, it's a form of mimicry, or you could say it was because the second group was emboldened by the actions of the first in a case of "follow the leader".

  • He can't fit that into his title. It wouldn't work.
    – Lambie
    Jan 31 '17 at 22:17
  • @Lynn I guess a simpler way of asking it would be "What is a word for when you think it's okay to do something just because other people do it too?"
    – Pedro
    Jan 31 '17 at 22:18
  • @Lambie - You could fit "emboldening" or "mimicry" into the title's blank if you wanted. I don't know that any of them fit what the OP was looking for, but that's why there's a choice to accept/not accept an answer.
    – Lynn
    Jan 31 '17 at 22:20
  • @Pedro I do not believe there's a single word for that. "Monkey see monkey do" is the expression you say when people (particularly children) imitate what they see because they think it's ok, but as I stated - that doesn't really fit your title. Mimicry doesn't have the connotation of whether something is not OK to do. You can mimic something good.
    – Lynn
    Jan 31 '17 at 22:21
  • @Pedro It's mimicry. That is exactly what it is.
    – Lambie
    Jan 31 '17 at 22:22

A currently fashionable word for coordination of behaviour in this way is meme defined as

An element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.

Completing your title as "Brexit and racism: causation, correlation and the development of memes" may suit your purpose well

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