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'Crowds behave like sheep and pick leaders'

A research says it takes a minority of just five pc of "informed individuals" to influence the direction of a crowd of a minimum of 200 people. The remaining just follow blindly.
By HT Correspondent | PTI, London
UPDATED ON FEB 15, 2008 01:10 PM IST

Have you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there? Well, a new study has finally found the answer - it's our "flock mentality".

Researchers at the University of Leeds in Britain have carried out the study and discovered that humans in crowd actually flock like sheep, subconsciously following a minority of individuals who seem to know where they are going.

They came to the conclusion after conducting an experiment in which volunteers were told to walk randomly around a large hall without talking to each other. A select few were then given more detailed instructions.

All the participants were not allowed to communicate with one another but had to stay just within arms length of another person.

The researchers found that it took a minority of just five per cent of what they called "informed individuals" to influence the direction of a crowd of a minimum of 200 people. The remaining of 95 per cent followed without realising it.

There are strong parallels with animal grouping behaviour. We've all been in situations where we get swept along by the crowd but what's interesting about this research is that our participants ended up making a consensus decision.

"This is 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," The Daily Telegraph quoted lead researcher Prof Jens Krause as saying.

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