Win elections by apathy?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Meet Princeton biologist Iain Couzin. He studies social animals--like schooling fish--and applies mathematical models to understand their behavior.
Herds are largely predictable: Majority rules! Unless a loudly opinionated minority captures everyone's attention.
Couzin wondered: What if a second minority, of indifferent members, comes along?
To find out, he trained golden shiner minnows--which swim toward light for food.
He taught a majority to swim toward blue light, and a minority to swim toward yellow.
Golden shiners naturally prefer yellow light, so the minority liked their color more--simulating the effect of an opinionated minority.
With both types together, the yellow-light minority convinced everyone to swim their direction.
Then Couzin introduced untrained shiners, with no light preference--and their "Meh, we'll do what most of you want" let the blue-light majority regain control.
It shows apolitical participants can counterbalance a powerful minority, Couzin says.
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