Why So Many People Gravitate To Worst Person In The Room


Some of us are still acting like toddlers.

naughty childImage by author via Canva

We all have an inborn instinct to follow the worst person in the room.

I haven’t read a bunch of studies or taken sociology or psychology degrees — I work with toddlers.

I’ve had a home daycare for the last eight years. For these eight years,10 hours a day, five days a week, I observe the inception and development of human behavior.

Every day I watch five little animals struggle to become human.

Every day is a battle between their basest animal instincts and the necessary evolution into human society.

One of the instincts I see surface continually is the impulse to follow the worst person in the room.

No matter the child — angel, or renegade — every group of toddlers repeats the same pattern, without exception. They always gravitate to the worst behavior in the room.

Whether we’re at the lunch table or getting ready to go outside, whenever the toddlers see someone acting up, they immediately do what the offender is doing.
Their automatic reaction is to join in.

They never instinctively follow the best-behaved child, they always follow the troublemaker.

I think it’s because they know that’s the person who will get the most attention.

Toddlers don’t care if it’s good or bad attention, the only thing that registers is that something is working.

childImage by author via Canva

If I have them at the lunch table and one person is banging their plate, they’ll all start doing it. Only the most self-controlled child can resist. And even that child will only abstain if they think I’m not watching.

If they think I’m too busy to notice, or if I’ve popped upstairs to grab something even that child will join in most times.

Toddlers don’t think about getting in trouble.

They don’t care about how you feel.

Before they learn that actions have consequences, they don’t have that experience to temper their urges. That part of their consciousness hasn’t kicked in yet. They only care about getting the most attention they can get.

It’s been bred into them.

Attention = Survival. Period.

We’re born sociopaths. We learn to respect others and care about them.

Toddlers go through a really aggressive stage that can last from 3 to 8 months and longer if not culled, where they just want to push, pummel, and dominate everyone around them.

We evolved in a brutal environment, as animals, and so our survival instinct is to eliminate the competition.

If they see someone as a competitor, they’ll stop at nothing to crush them.

That’s why toddlers have such a hard time with hitting and pushing.

It’s not their fault; it’s their innate survival mechanism kicking in. Obsolete? Yes, but inherent nonetheless and why many adults have a hard time resisting the call of evil, especially in groups.

Many people live in a state of arrested development because this tendency wasn’t completely socialized out of them.

When parents allow themselves to be bullied, when they spoil and refuse to give consequences, they feed the instinct rather than starve it so it lingers.

If no deterrent is planted in the developing mind for it to internalize, this key element of socialization is lost.

But because we all need to learn to function in polite society, the impulse gets repressed and goes dormant rather than dying off, laying in wait for an opportunity to reanimate itself.

Aggression is a strong impulse, difficult to resist. In the toddler, it’s an innocent, impulsive reaction. In the adult, it morphs into contempt or worse.

You need to look no farther than the trolls of your Twitter or Facebook feed for proof of this. When people think there are no consequences, the unregulated child in them comes unhinged.

People who have been correctly and lovingly socialized lose this urge, these are the ones who are kind and generous. These are the people for whom the urge only surfaces when they’re in physical danger, or there’s an assault on their social system or loved ones.

These are the people who engage in kindness. People to whom cruelty has no appeal.

But people who haven’t been appropriately socialized constantly struggle to keep their primal urges under control.

the rule bookImage by author via Canva

They have to, the laws of society force them to.

These people aren’t necessarily murderous psychopaths, the ones who blatantly destroy and kill.

These are everyday people, the quiet sociopaths who spend their energy holding it together so they can fit in.

Unfortunately, when a terrible leader, corrupt and unkind, comes to power, these people get so much relief from not having to regulate their inner toddler anymore that they eagerly eat up messages of hate and violence.

It’s relief, nothing more or less.

These people are your friends and neighbors who buy into bad politics in shockingly banal ways.

The fuel of every cruel regime is regular people who turn a blind eye until it’s acceptable for them to join in.

Ordinary people unleashing their dormant instincts and following the worst person in the room like toddlers starving for attention.

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Musician, writer, toddler wrangler. Author of "How To Be Wise AF" guided journal available on Amazon as well as "The Automatic Parent" due out in Feb. 2022.


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