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May 23, 1986

Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War: 1916-1919

Author Affiliations

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

JAMA. 1986;255(20):2818-2819. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370200120045

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This seminal book, first published in 1916, has been republished in a handsome limited edition by the British Medical Association because of its present significance. It is a pioneering effort in applied social psychology. It offers insight into the world of today, threatened by the competing herd instincts of different nations, and within it societies gone awry, with actual and potential horrendous consequences.

Trotter's idealistic conclusion that reason and disciplined intelligence will bring about peace or resolution of the herd instinct problems of nations is doubtful. Bearing in mind what is now known about the power of the unconscious and the limitations of reason, disciplined rational thought appears as only one step. Since Trotter wrote this book and its addendum in 1919, there have been World War II, with the loss of 55 million lives, and 140 other wars, with more being spawned all the time.

Instincts of the Herd