The bandwagon effect is a well documented form of groupthink in behavioral science and has many applications. The general rule is that conduct or beliefs spread among people, as fads and trends clearly do, with “the probability of any individual adopting it increasing with 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.
The tendency to follow the actions or beliefs of others can occur because individuals directly prefer to conform, or because individuals derive information from others. Both explanations have been used for evidence of conformity in psychological experiments. For example, social pressure has been used to explain Asch’s conformity experiments, and information has been used to explain Sherif’s autokinetic experiment.
In layman’s term the bandwagon effect refers to people doing certain things because other people are doing them, regardless of their own beliefs, which they may ignore or override. The perceived “popularity” of an object or person may have an effect on how it is viewed on a whole. For instance, once a product becomes popular, more people tend to “get on the bandwagon” and buy it, too. The bandwagon effect explains why there are fashion trends.
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 behavior of others. Cascades explain why behavior is fragile—people understand that they are based on very limited information. As a result, fads form easily but are also easily dislodged. Such informational effects have been used to explain political bandwagons.