Sheep In Human Clothing: Scientists Reveal Our Flock Mentality

Sheep In Human Clothing: Scientists Reveal Our Flock Mentality

ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2008)
— Have you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there?
Scientists at the University of Leeds believe they may have found the
answer, with research that shows that humans flock like sheep and
birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals.

Have
you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there? Humans flock
like sheep, subconsciously following a minority of individuals. It
takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction
— and that the other 95 per cent follow without realizing it. (Credit:
iStockphoto/Ziga Koritnik)

Results from a study at the University of Leeds show that it takes a
minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and
that the other 95 per cent follow without realising it.

The findings could have major implications for directing the flow of
large crowds, in particular in disaster scenarios, where verbal
communication may be difficult. “There are many situations where this
information could be used to good effect,” says Professor Jens Krause
of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences. “At one extreme, it
could be used to inform emergency planning strategies and at the other,
it could be useful in organising pedestrian flow in busy areas.”

Professor Krause, with PhD student John Dyer, conducted a series of
experiments where groups of people were asked to walk randomly around a
large hall. Within the group, a select few received more detailed
information about where to walk. Participants were not allowed to
communicate with one another but had to stay within arms length of
another person.

The findings show that in all cases, the ‘informed individuals’ were
followed by others in the crowd, forming a self-organising, snake-like
structure. “We’ve all been in situations where we get swept along by
the crowd,” says Professor Krause. “But what’s interesting about this
research is that our participants ended up making a consensus decision
despite the fact that they weren’t allowed to talk or gesture to one
another. In most cases the participants didn’t realise they were being
led by others.”

Other experiments in the study used groups of different sizes, with
different ratios of ‘informed individuals’. The research findings show
that as the number of people in a crowd increases, the number of
informed individuals decreases. In large crowds of 200 or more, five
per cent of the group is enough to influence the direction in which it
travels. The research also looked at different scenarios for the
location of the ‘informed individuals’ to determine whether where they
were located had a bearing on the time it took for the crowd to follow.

“We initially started looking at consensus decision making in humans
because we were interested in animal migration, particularly birds,
where it can be difficult to identify the leaders of a flock,” says
Professor Krause. “But it just goes to show that there are strong
parallels between animal grouping behaviour and human crowds.”

This research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council and was a collaborative study involving the
Universities of Oxford and Wales Bangor. The paper relating to this
research, entitled Consensus decision making in human crowds is
published in the current issue of Animal Behaviour Journal.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Leeds.

>BackTrack <

Leave a Reply

RSS Daily Search Trends