Top Story

In small groups, people follow high performing leaders

A team of researchers claim to have "cracked the code" of how leaders arise from small groups of people over time. The researchers, analyzing how participant responses evolved over the course of the experiment, found that individuals did not choose the simple majority rule, as posited by the wisdom of crowds. Rather, they dynamically decided whom to follow in making decisions based on how well each group member performed over time. The researchers inferred a dynamic evolution of the network of interaction, in which participants were nodes and the links were the consequences of social influence. To conduct the research, the team convened several groups of five volunteers each to participate in a cognitive test arranged in 10 consecutive rounds. The task involved estimating the number of dots displayed for just half a second on a large screen. In each round, participants were asked to choose an option from multiple answers using a custom-made clicker, without verbally communicating with one another. Because the dots were visible for only an instant, group members, lacking the time to count them, had to venture a guess. However, the experiments were structured so that participants could alter their answers based on the answers of others in their group: Once all participants had chosen their initial answers, the screen -- viewable by all -- displayed the current answers of all members along with their past performance in selecting correct responses. Participants then had a 10-second window in which to change their responses based on those of the others in the group.

Visit Website | Image credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.com