The bandwagon effect is the tendency of an individual to acquire a particular style, behaviour or attitude because everyone else is doing it. It is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases with respect to the proportion of others who have already done so. As more people come to believe in something, others also "hop on the bandwagon" regardless of the underlying evidence.
Following the actions or beliefs of others can occur because individuals prefer to conform, or because individuals derive information from others. An example of this is fashion trends where the increasing popularity of a certain garment or style encourages more people to "get on the bandwagon".
When individuals make rational choices based on the information they receive from others, economists have proposed that information cascades can quickly form in which people decide to ignore their personal information signals and follow the behaviour of others. Cascades explain why behaviour is fragile as people understand that their behaviour is based on a very limited amount of information. As a result, fads form easily but are also easily dislodged.
The definition of a bandwagon is a wagon which carries a band during the course of a parade, circus or other entertainment event. The phrase "jump on the bandwagon" first appeared in American politics in 1848 when Dan Rice, a famous and popular circus clown of the time, used his bandwagon and its music to gain attention for his political campaign appearances. As his campaign became more successful, other politicians strove for a seat on the bandwagon, hoping to be associated with his success. Later, during the time of William Jennings Bryan's 1900 presidential campaign, bandwagons had become standard in campaigns, and the phrase "jump on the bandwagon" was used as a derogatory term, implying that people were associating themselves with success without considering that with which they associated themselves.
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The bandwagon effect occurs in voting: some people vote for those candidates or parties who are likely to succeed (or are proclaimed as such by the media), hoping to be on the "winner's side" in the end. The bandwagon effect has been applied to situations involving majority opinion, such as political outcomes, where people alter their opinions to the majority view. Such a shift in opinion can occur because individuals draw inferences from the decisions of others, as in an informational cascade.
In microeconomics, bandwagon effects may play out in interactions of demand and preference. The bandwagon effect arises when people's preference for a commodity increases as the number of people buying it increases. This interaction potentially disturbs the normal results of the theory of supply and demand, which assumes that consumers make buying decisions exclusively based on price and their own personal preference.
Medical bandwagons have been identified as "the overwhelming acceptance of unproved but popular ideas". They have led to inappropriate therapies for numerous patients, and have impeded the development of more appropriate treatment.
One who supports a particular sports team, despite having shown no interest in that team until it started gaining success, can be considered a "bandwagon fan".
As an increasing number of people begin to use a specific social networking site or application, people are more likely to begin using those sites or applications. The bandwagon effect also effects which posts are viewed and shared.
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