The Loh Down On Science

Mob Rules

The finer points of mob rule.

Two heads are better than one? Not always!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

And on the finer points of mob rule.

Many animals, like schools of fish, make instant group decisions.

But how?

To find out, researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia built a couple of realistic robotic fish--robo-fish! They mixed them into a school of fish in the wild.

When the scientists made ONE robot fish suddenly swim toward a predator, no real fish followed.

But when the scientists instructed TWO robotic fish to make the same suicidal decision? The whole school followed suit.

Fish apparently use a kind of statistical betting system. They somehow sense that if there's a one-in-ten chance a single fish is crazy, there's also a hundred-to-one chance AGAINST two having gone bonkers.

Ward's team suspects that humans respond to social cues in a similar way.

Their plan: put groups of human subjects on street corners and see if two leaders can entice the whole group to cross against red lights.

Isn't science fun? Good for the insurance industry too!


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