Recent progress in the large scale mapping of social networks is opening new quantitative windows into the structure of human societies. These networks are largely the result of how we access and utilize information. Here I show that a universal decision mechanism, where we base our choices upon the actions of others, can explain much of their structure. Such collective social arrangements emerge from successful strategies to handle information flow at the individual level. They include the formation of closely-knit communities and the emergence of well-connected individuals. The latter can command the following of others while only exercising ordinary judgement.