Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War

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Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War is the title of an influential book by English surgeon Wilfred Trotter, published in 1916. Based on the ideas of Gustave Le Bon, it was very influential in the development of group dynamics and crowd psychology, and the propaganda of Edward Bernays. It was also cited by Q. D. Leavis in her book Fiction And The Reading Public.[1]


From Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1942 ed., pg. 90):

  • “It has already been pointed out how dangerous it would be to breed man for reason — that is, against suggestibility. The idea is a fit companion for the device of breeding against “degeneracy”. The degenerate — that is, the mentally unstable – have demonstrated by the mere fact of instability that they possess the quality of sensitiveness to feeling and to experience, for it is this which has prevented them from applying the remedy of rationalization or exclusion when they have met with experience conflicting with the herd suggestion.”
  • “It is interesting to notice that in discussing the mechanism of psychoanalysis in liberating the ‘abnormal’ patient from his symptoms, Freud repeatedly lays stress on the fact that the efficient factor in the process is not the actual introduction of the suppressed experiences into the conscious field, but the overcoming of the resistances to such an endeavour. I have attempted to show that these resistances or counter-impulses are of environmental origin, and owe their strength to the specific sensitiveness of the gregarious mind. Resistances of similar type and identical origin are responsible for the formation of the so-called normal type of mind. It is a principal thesis of an earlier essay in this book that this normal type is far from being psychologically healthy, is far from rendering available the full capacity of the mind for foresight and progress, and being in exclusive command of directing power in the world, is a danger to civilization.”


  1. Jump up^ Chris BaldickThe Social Mission of English Criticism, 1848-1932. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987. ISBN 0-19-812979-3 (p. 194)

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