Spaniards have ‘herd mentality’ rather than being free thinkers: study

Spaniards are renowned for being passionate, expressive and fun loving, but a new study reveals that they're also heavily influenced by others and not often independent-minded.

spaniards herd mentality
80 percent of respondents said they prefer to follow the majority for fear of attracting attention, even if they don't agree. (Photo by Ander GILLENEA / AFP)

Spain is an extremely varied country with its distinct regional idiosyncrasies and social traits, but its people are generally known abroad for being friendly, loud, hedonistic, active and straight-talking.  There are also negative stereotypes such as that they’re lazy and enjoy siestas, which the evidence suggests is far from true.

Recent research has revealed that there’s another trait that is common among Spaniards: they prefer to go with the crowd and aren’t very individualistic.

These are the findings of the Study on Critical Thinking carried out by the IO Research Institute for none other than Spanish beer 1906 (their latest advertising campaign asks if Spaniards are free thinkers).

The study, which examined the behaviours and ways of thinking in Spaniards, found that 95 percent of Spaniards believe they live in a society that is influenced by others.

In fact, 80 percent of respondents said they prefer to follow the majority for fear of attracting attention, even if they don’t agree.

Of those surveyed, only two out of ten people thought that behaving differently is a positive thing.

David Martín de la Morena, from IO Investigación, explained that “one in four Spaniards makes important decisions by letting themselves be guided by the majority. In fact, 11 percent indicated that they had got married because it was what they had to do.

According to the study, four out of ten Spaniards felt their relationships with family and friends were based on established behavioural norms, and not what they really thought or wanted to do.

Up to 73 percent of respondents said they have specifically not done something so as not to disappoint their loved ones, and almost half claimed to have lied for the sake of the people around them.

These agreeable, non-confrontational social norms make the Spanish “an unoriginal, very gregarious country which follows the herd mentality,” says Fernando Vidal, Professor of Sociology at the University of Comillas.

READ ALSO: Nine unwritten rules that explain how Spain works

Young people and social media

The study also concluded that for young Spaniards, perceptions of friends and social media use contributed to a lack of critical thinking and boosted the herd mentality. Sixty-nine percent of respondents in the survey say that their internet use conditions their way of acting and thinking. One in three Spaniards claimed to watch series or films because they are perceived to be popular or fashionable, not because they were interested. 12 percent have picked holiday destinations for similar reasons, many of the trends born on social media.

With regards to their posts or opinions online, 66 percent claimed they were original expressions of their own thoughts and feelings, while 34 percent admitted they were echoing the predominant opinions online. José Carlos Ruiz, a philosopher who worked on the study, said that “the narratives we find on social media are being incorporated into each person, so that, without realising, we internalise the external as a criterion for taking action.”

Whether it be due to societal pressures, interpersonal relationships or social media use, it appears Spaniards are very influenced by one another and what they perceive to be the right or fashionable thing to do.

The pandemic

Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. If you were in Spain in 2020 and 2021, you probably couldn’t have helped but notice how compliant Spanish society was with lockdown, masks, and then vaccines. Even today, in November 2022, Spaniards still gladly wear face masks on public transport and in hospitals as required by law.

A study by Imperial College London published in June 2021 found that 79 percent of people in Spain trusted Covid-19 vaccines (roughly the same amount of the population who got vaccinated), compared to 62 percent in the US, 56 percent in France and 47 percent in Japan.

Whereas in countries like France and Italy many public workers such as teachers and health workers refused to get vaccinated, in Spain no mandate was needed.

Whether it was more ‘herd mentality’ or the Spanish sense of community following a very high death rate among Spain’s elderly population in the first months of the pandemic, a less individualistic mentality benefitted Spain and its reputation abroad.

And even though a less independent-minded population may have its drawbacks, a selfless society can make for a great place to live.

READ ALSO: Spaniards think France is superior…and so do the French

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How many CCTV cameras are there in Spain?

CCTV cameras are becoming cheaper, more prevalent, and more technologically advanced. The Local takes a look at how many CCTV cameras there are in Spain, how that stacks up against other countries, and if they actually make us safer.

How many CCTV cameras are there in Spain?

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been around for decades. Advances in technology and the arrival of the digital age saw the prevalence of CCTV cameras explode, and now, in 2022, there are over 1 billion CCTV cameras around the world.

Nowadays they are used to monitor traffic, deter crime, and are a big part of both home and professional security systems. In fact, technology has improved so much in recent decades that cameras have become simultaneously cheaper and more advanced.

Long gone are the days of grainy, pixelated footage. In 2022, CCTV cameras can live stream high quality video, and in some parts of the world, even use facial recognition technology.

Some countries are famous for an abundance of CCTV cameras. China is perhaps the first that springs to mind as one of these highly surveilled states.

But how many CCTV cameras are there in Spain, and do they actually make us safer?

READ ALSO: The Spanish neighbourhoods with the worst reputation for being dangerous

And how do Spain’s CCTV cameras stack up against other countries?


In Spain, there is around one CCTV camera per 52 inhabitants, according to Spanish security company Continox.

This works out at over 900,000 CCTV cameras, though it is worth noting that as there is no legal obligation to register each individual security camera in Spain, rather just that a property or establishment has at least one and is recording – in reality, therefore, the number could be far higher.

Unsurprisingly, the areas with the highest concentration of CCTV cameras in Spain are in the major cities. In Madrid alone for example, there are 27,300 cameras. If we take the population of the broader Madrid metropolitan area, which is around 6.7 million, that works out to slightly over 4 (4.06) cameras per 1000 inhabitants, according to figures from Comparitech.

In Madrid there are over 2,000 cameras that record from cashpoints and ATMs alone.

In Barcelona, where the metropolitan population is slightly lower, at around 5.7 million, there are 13,300 cameras – significantly less, at 2.35 cameras per 1000 inhabitants.

READ ALSO: How Barcelona is once again Spain’s pickpocket capital

For comparison, the per 1000 people figure in Paris is very similar (4.04) to Madrid, but both Spain and France pale in comparison to the English capital, London, where there are 13.35 CCTV cameras per 1000 people, according to Comparitech.

How does Spain compare?

Though one CCTV camera per 52 Spaniards may seem high, in reality this number is low when compared with other countries and cities and Spain ranks reasonably low on both the per 1000 inhabitants and per square kilometre metrics. The British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) recently presented data that estimates there is a CCTV camera for per 14 inhabitants in Britain, for example. 

In what probably comes as a surprise to nobody, 8 of the 10 most surveilled cities in the world (using the same metric above of cameras per 1,000 people) are in China. 

In fact, though it is said that there are over 1 billion CCTV cameras around the world, it is thought that 54 percent of them in China alone – around 540 million cameras. With a rough population of 1.46 billion, this works out at around 372.8 cameras per 1,000 people in China.

For the Brits among our readership, London is the sixth most surveilled city in the world, and if you’ve spent time in London, that might not come as a surprise to you. In London there are almost 400 CCTV cameras (399.27) per km2, according to Surfshark.

For context, in Madrid that figure is just 47.99 cameras/km2, and in Barcelona 71.01/km2. Though that may seem high, it is significantly less than Paris (254.59) and the most surveilled city in the world (in terms of cameras per km2) Chennai, which has a staggering 657.28 cameras/km2, but much more than both Berlin (19.6/km2) and Rome (just 6.35/ km2).

More cameras, less crime?

So, do the high number of CCTV cameras in our big cities make us safer and prevent (or deter, at least) crime?

Not exactly. According to a study by Comparitech, there is a very weak correlation between the number of CCTV cameras and the Crime Index (how safe a place is) in a location. Rather, CCTV cameras are more useful in solving crimes than preventing them.

So if CCTV cameras have a near negligible impact on levels of crime, the debate then pivots instead towards personal privacies and freedoms, and the extent to which major European cities are slowly transforming into surveillance states.

Despite these understandable and growing concerns, polling from Spain’s Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) suggests that 68.7 percent of Spaniards favour the use of CCTV cameras in public places. Of these, 66.4 percent supported their use because they felt they provide more security, 18.0 percent because it makes identifying criminals easier and 15.2 percent because it prevents crimes.

It is worth noting, however, that these figures are a few years old and the rapid rate with which technology has advanced (think facial recognition) might have softened this support for such heavy CCTV use in recent years as society becomes more technologically savvy and aware of personal freedom and data laws.

That being said, Spanish cities (and Spain overall) are generally middle of the pack in terms of European cities when it comes to CCTV cameras but way behind major cities in Asia, esepecially China, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are any less safe than anywhere else.