Is It Important or Simply Well Attended?

April 5, 2006 | By | 1 Reply More

Tens of thousands of people flow into the stadium in anticipation of the big game.  Thousands more people read about the “big” game in the following day’s paper.  The headline: “46,239 Fans Attend Big Game.”

But would that big game be “big” if only a few people showed up?  Or would it be just highly skilled athletes playing a game?

Where a public event seems important, we often experience only “derivative” importance.  A public event can seem important solely because it is attended (or expected to be attended) by many people.  Promoters thus often concoct public events to seem important by painting them as events that will be attended by numerous other people.  That the event is scheduled to occur at a large venue (e.g., a big stadium) or that it is promoted on television are effective but intellectually cheap ways to get this point across. 

Our herd instinct easily taps into events associated with crowds: concerts, sporting events, church services, political gatherings, carnivals, parades and even “Big Sales.”  The presence of large numbers of co-attendees stokes our nervous systems and makes us feel the sizzle in the air.  After the event, we always think of its importance in the context the many other people attending.  That many people are expected to be there makes us assume that everyone should be there.  We have no difficulty referring to the obviously misnamed “World Series.”

I suspect that many public events are big draws because they are anticipated to be big draws.  They are self-fulfilling prophecies. They often seem important because they are well attended, rather than being well attended because they are important.

I offer this as something to think about next time you hear that something “big” is about to happen.

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Category: Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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