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Following the crowd supports democracy
Date:12/16/2011

This press release is available in German.

From shoals of fish to human society: social organisms need to make collective decisions. And it is not always the majority that prevails. In some cases, a small, resolute group may succeed in bending the whole community to their will. Using computer models and behavioural studies of fish, a team of scientists, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, has discovered that uninformed individuals support the decision of the majority and may prevent a particularly determined minority from prevailing over the rest. For a democratic society, this means that individuals who are undecided need not necessarily present a risk to the democratic decision-making process; on the contrary, they can offer protection against the dominance of a small but strong-willed group.

History holds many examples of how a handful or even a single determined individual has succeeded in gathering whole societies behind them and directing their fate. The commonly held view is that such groups will always prevail when they are faced with large numbers of poorly informed and undecided individuals. The latter tend to follow the decisions of others and adopt the resolute determination of the group even if the group is itself in the minority.

A group of researchers, including colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, has now arrived at a different result. Using a variety of computer models, the scientists have demonstrated that uninformed individuals can also bring about a majority decision, even if the minority is more determined than the majority.

"Our simulations initially confirmed what we expected: A small group that resolutely pursues a specific objective can dominate a larger group. What surprised us was that a group of unin
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Contact: Dr. Thilo Gross
thilo2gross@gmail.com
44-117-331-5151
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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