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DrJGH t1_ixdiub6 wrote

“[These] findings essentially suggest that the flock doesn’t have a definite leader, but different animals take turns in this role,” it says here, and “What is particularly interesting here is how fluid this transition is: in human societies, the transfer of authority or leadership is often marked by uncertainty and chaos.”

This is an interesting article, and this seems to have been quite an exciting ethological study


cedenof10 t1_ixexhhq wrote

to be fair, there’s a significant difference between “this guy will choose which way to run for the next 4 mins” and “this guy will choose who can get food for the next 4 years”


Kryptosis t1_ixf91it wrote

We probably exhibit the same behavior in chaotic crowds too. People intuitively move with those around them who seem like they know where they are going.


[deleted] t1_ixfcw8f wrote



StoneTemplePilates t1_ixgcp19 wrote

It's not just when they're spooked either, all it takes is for one of them to start poking around a hole in the hedge or disappear behind a few trees and suddenly hundreds of them are like "ohhh what's over there?!?" Even though they've been in the same field for months.

Source: decades of boredom watching sheep at my grandparents in Wales.


DaisyHotCakes t1_ixfew0h wrote

But what happens if another of those sheep run off in a different direction than the others and the “leader” they followed? Will some of the sheep veer off ti follow the new guy or will they continue following the first one?


AxiousDeMorte t1_ixfhcne wrote

Have you ever seen Babe? The movie with the "that'll do pig"? That, I guess, idk shinola about sheep.


TheBirminghamBear t1_ixflyo4 wrote

> if you see a mob running the opposite direction of you, you might run with them

I mean, I sort of have to. Running at them seems a poor choice no matter what is behind them.


shmorby t1_ixgq875 wrote

Plus I doubt I want to be running towards whatever scared a mob of people enough to run.


Noxious_Zebra t1_ixfcs8o wrote

That’s a really interesting thought, and would be interesting to learn more about crowd psychology and what affects our decision making


paperwasp3 t1_ixfhqn2 wrote

Finding out who the bellwether is in different situations.


dannyp777 t1_ixx4026 wrote

Humans doen't always make the smartest and most logical choices for leaders, there are so many factors at play. Alot of the problem may come from the fact that we assume we have more complete knowledge of the candidates than we actually do and are content to base our decisions on inadequate assessment of candidates.


[deleted] t1_ixdk5ya wrote



Spepsium t1_ixdncxt wrote

The classic platonic division. Everyone's monster is attracted to what's salient while their inner man is overwhelmed


Numismatists t1_ixdtmdk wrote

Bread & Circus while the Ecosphere collapses.


elralpho t1_ixevst1 wrote

The sheep would never have let it get this bad...


bishpa t1_ixfekq8 wrote

Pink Floyd covered all this.


badger81987 t1_ixeyytm wrote

A flock of sheep also has alot less members than even a small town. They are all far more familiar and thus trusting with all members than basically any human community can be


caulrye t1_ixf4lm4 wrote

100s of millions of sheep aren’t moving in a flock together. The scale is very different.


BTBLAM t1_ixfwu1p wrote

I would say the sheep are distracted and are just following what’s in front of them


Arodg25 t1_ixdwai3 wrote

it's likely because sheep haven't figured out what corruption is. once they do though you'll see a whole different dynamic and once they introduce the idea of "shareholders", their whole system is f*****.


Jason_CO t1_ixdxv0j wrote

Humans know what that is but we could choose not to do it.


Arodg25 t1_ixe2sp6 wrote

we don't just know what it is, we're the inventors


TheBirminghamBear t1_ixfn5dt wrote

Surprisingly untrue actually.

There is evidence of corruption in many social and eusocial species, many of which predate us in the evolutionary scale.

Ants and bees can exhibit corruption. Bees are supposed to mate only with a queen, but in species with other females, mating will occur outside royal lineage, creating shadow competition in the hive


HidetheCaseman89 t1_ixecxsz wrote

To the corrupt, it's not a choice, it's a lifestyle. They don't see any other option. It's simply "How it's done."


the_first_brovenger t1_ixgqtrc wrote

You can dress it up differently but corruption is inherent to humanity, whichever manifestation it takes.

That's not saying all of humanity is corrupt. It's saying the potential is there and it happens organically. The goal is to go from "let's go get thousands of slave laborers" to "hey let's put this romantic dinner on the company do get a tax deduction."


wanderinggoat t1_ixejhyp wrote

the farmers will have a hard time when the sheep work out what a judas sheep is too!


-downtone_ t1_ixhaqko wrote

If only we could remove liars from the mix somehow. Needs to be built into society that lying actually is considered bad.


Arodg25 t1_ixi1ztp wrote

everybody already knows that, but we also know that it's very advantageous to lie sometimes too.


-downtone_ t1_ixiw70o wrote

I personally think taking advantage with lying is a lack of emotional control. It's not advantageous to the group as a whole at all.


Arodg25 t1_ixj22s5 wrote

depends on the lie and the purpose behind it. if your partner asks you if they look good before heading out the door. and they don't. the truth could ruin the whole night. or a simple lie like yes could prevent this.


randomusername8472 t1_ixf0w4q wrote

I don't know enough about sheep social dynamics to care but... In my experience humans also work like this in friend/family groups.

Families and friendships groups usually have one or two "leaders" who do most of the social "admin" (eg, arranging gatherings between the friends) but the actual "lead" of the group is flexible and situational. People defer to the trusted person who has most experience with a particular problem, and unorganised decisions happen organically (like, when it's time to leave).

I only ever see it on a really small scale though, like maybe a dozen people? Sheep flocks are bigger, but then is guess their social dynamics are much simpler so the same mechanism can be used over larger group. And since they have no way of improving their methodology, groups that get too big to work by this method will break up into manageable groups again.


APeacefulWarrior t1_ixg957d wrote

>In my experience humans also work like this in friend/family groups.

Connie Willis wrote a book about this called (approrpriately enough) Bellwether. Unlike most of her novels, it's not sci-fi, more of a farce on corporate science work. Very amusing, tho.


AbouBenAdhem t1_ixdwhmf wrote

I wonder if there’s a difference between domestic and wild sheep—maybe the behavior of domestic sheep has evolved to function in conjunction with shepherds and dogs.


Spacebutterfly t1_ixeplbh wrote

The idea being if one sheep knows the way though a maze- that sheep is the leader

I imagine that a sheep stays the leader until they say, whether they mean to or not “I’m not the leader anymore” and they follow suit- because they’re literally sheep


Pencilowner t1_ixfl0d4 wrote

I think they over generalized the scope of grazing behavior to political behavior. The exact same thing they see in sheep happens to humans in certain situations. A large group can move in a crowd together regardless of there being a “leader”


Strazdas1 t1_ixgt48j wrote

More credence that sheep are communist in nature.


Tall-Log-1955 t1_ixdmamz wrote

Anarchists are fully erect


NotThatMadisonPaige t1_ixfilir wrote

I came here to make an anarchist comment but I’m pleased to see that it’s been handled. Thank you kind human.


GhostDieM t1_ixepuz5 wrote

Don't anarchists want to not follow somebody though? I imagine they'd be erect by something like "cats have the best lifestyle" or something


NotThatMadisonPaige t1_ixfjlgt wrote

No not exactly. It’s hierarchies we oppose. We oppose imbalances of power and don’t believe anyone should have power over others unless absolutely necessary and unavoidable.

The fluid nature of these animal configurations is preferable to hierarchies that are permanent and power oriented.


conquer69 t1_ixfv6d0 wrote

What about anarchocapitalists? Isn't that contradictory? Or are those not anarchists?


DontDoomScroll t1_ixfxh1g wrote

Capitalism is a vertical hierarchy. Those with wealth over those without. Boss over worker.
And the mega corps in ancapistan will form defacto states. Anarchists don't like states.

Anarchy: Against Hierarchy.

Definitionally anarchocapitalism is not consistent. It's not just that I don't like the ideology that would be harmful in practice, and wouldn't want such ideology associated with me; foremost the words contradict eachother.


DontDoomScroll t1_ixfx1cy wrote

>don’t believe anyone should have power over others unless absolutely necessary and unavoidable.

Some anarchists will beyond fight you for upholding authoritarian structures.
You do not speak for all anarchists, there are many anarchies.


Jason_CO t1_ixdxwlv wrote

Anarchy is not having a leader.


ubermeisters t1_ixe6xt2 wrote

anarchy is spouting off definitions that don't match the term you associate them with


MarkHirsbrunner t1_ixe6gj5 wrote

No, it means the absence of government, not absence of leaders.


Pixelwind t1_ixkpf8q wrote

Actually you are both wrong anarchy is the absence of unjust hierarchical power structures, so for example you could have a leader so long as that leader is subject to the will of the people and can be removed from leadership by the people, you could also have a government comprised of such leaders.

Anarchy is not incompatible with governance or leadership. Beliefs like those are the product of a several century long propaganda campaign by the people in positions of unjust power who would stand to lose said power if anarchy came to fruition.


Jason_CO t1_ixeds3g wrote

If you have leaders you have a form of government.


Catalyst375 t1_ixevvht wrote

Not really. Deffering to someone with expertise and allowing them to oversee and organize an effort pertaining to their specialty doesn't necessarily mean that you're forming a hierarchical system. If people voluntarily elect to listen to this temporary leader's advice in order to better achieve their collective goals, and the leader doesn't have some mechanism to enforce their wishes, then the leader's station isn't higher than anyone else's. If the process is fluid, like with the sheep in the article, then it's simply a matter of people choosing to give someone increased capacity to manage the group while their knowledge and experience is relevant before shifting that limited authority (distinct from power) to someone whose abilities are more relevant.

While commonly characterized as being chaotic, anarchism doesn't require a total lack of any structure, order, and/or organization. The main caveat is that any system of organization is a matter of voluntary association, and that anyone in a leadership role isn't granted undue authority or presumed inherent legitimacy and the ability to impress their will upon others.


MarkHirsbrunner t1_ixeoege wrote

That's an inaccurately broad definition of "government.". Are street gangs governments? Are the management of my office a government? Was General Buck Naked a part of a government? The answer to all of these is "No."


conquer69 t1_ixfwn69 wrote

> Are street gangs governments?

Yes. They have hierarchies, coups, police, resources, rules and laws, etc. The Russian regime is more gang than government.


MarkHirsbrunner t1_ixfzjve wrote

If you define government that broadly, anarchy cannot exist as there will always be social hierarchies in any human culture.


Jason_CO t1_ixetl6q wrote

Actually yes to all of those. A governing body is not restricted to a nation or similar.

If you have any sort of leadership restricting the individual, you do not have anarchy


MarkHirsbrunner t1_ixezxh1 wrote

Your definition of governance is too broad. It must have legal authority to conduct the affairs of a political unit. A strong man who tells people what to do and it's only listened to because of fear of force is not a government. A person chosen to speak for a group but who has no authority is not a government. My boss only has authority over me in regards to my work duties, and that is only at my consent...I can choose at any time to say "I'm not going to work for you" and he has no authority over me at that point.

Words have meanings, and a government requires more than just a leader.


Gaming_and_Physics t1_ixdnlmy wrote

This is one of the more fascinating things I've read on this sub.


No_big_whoop t1_ixhkl8w wrote

I’m not sure I trust the integrity of sheep elections


ZipTheZipper t1_ixdwwlk wrote

I wonder how this compares to flocks of birds. Starling murmurations seem to shift direction without an appointed leader. Geese take turns leaving their formations when flying. Maybe it's the same with schools of fish. It seems like it's the common way for collective animal movements to occur, and primates are the exception.


badger81987 t1_ixezhof wrote

I believe with birds they're sort of 'drafting' so the lead bird would drop to the back to rest periodically


LateMiddleAge t1_ixf2prz wrote

You're correct but it's not 'sort of' but more 'exactly & perfectly.' Astonishing stuff.


peasant_python t1_ixe4hyx wrote

I was wondering about this ever since I borrowed a herd of goats during a couple of weeks last summer. I was told all the goats were going to follow the lead goats. Instead, there were at least two main lead goats (older females) taking turns and mostly general anarchy with different animals taking decisions.

A lot of older assumptions science has about hierarchy and leadership in animal groups is probably going to change as we ourselves learn to organize without excessive hierarchy.


TheRighteousRonin t1_ixg7o4x wrote

you borrowed a herd of goats?


minion_is_here t1_ixg9cnb wrote

Probably to mow down overgrowth like a briar patch or something similar. They're very effective for such purposes.


MonsieurEff t1_ixewylu wrote

As someone who grew up on a farm, this makes perfect sense. It was always infuriating moving sheep between paddocks, just waiting for that first sheep to finally make the move through the gate so the others would follow.


miss_kimba t1_ixh8qg8 wrote

Ah man, you get them all the way up to the open gate, then they just stand there looking at you for ages, then one of them decides to try and run through the fence instead of the gap.


considerthis8 t1_ixhasnm wrote

Its like a group of people staring at their phones and relying on the group to guide them. The one person paying attention is the leader


Rustybot t1_ixe3cow wrote

Bellwhethers are fascinating. I strongly suggest the novel “Bellwether” by Connie Willis. It’s a fictional story that explores the idea of trends/fads and sheep.


Whatever-ItsFine t1_ixf0x01 wrote

The same Connie Willis who wrote the time travel books?


Rustybot t1_ixf1z13 wrote

Oh yes, the very same!

For those that don’t know, all her books are great:

  • Doomsday is a great read in these pandemic times.
  • the WWII pair of novels Blackout and All Clear are amazing
  • my favorite will always be my first “To Say Nothing of the Dog”

Whatever-ItsFine t1_ixfg99d wrote

I read all three of those in the summer of 2012. What a great summer.

Edit: Actually, I should say all four.


designOraptor t1_ixe9fp9 wrote

So do border collies have some genetic ability to recognize which sheep are the temporary leaders?


jinxbob t1_ixeqto5 wrote

More likely the temporary leaders when the BC is around are assumed by the same sheep each time.


vonHindenburg t1_ixfrkdf wrote

I grew up on a sheep farm, herding them on foot and on a bike. There was clearly never a leader. It always made the most sense in my head to treat them as a bubble of hyrdoscopic liquid with yourself blowing at them through a straw. You pushed around the edge to get them to go in the direction that you wanted, but had to be careful not to push too hard when they got to a choke point, or they'd splatter everywhere. Different factors, such as the presence of rams or lambs would increase the reaction, causing them to be more or less likely to break up and more reactive.


DystopianFigure t1_ixfrncb wrote

How is it surprising? I thought humans exhibit the same behavior. Like when you're running for safety, you generally tend to follow someone who seems to know what they're doing. Or alternatively you could be the one who tries leading people to safety.


CitizenCue t1_ixg57x4 wrote

What exactly is so surprising here? And what seems to be so unique to sheep rather than simply to herds in general, or even just crowds of any species?

The article’s comparison to formal transfers of political leadership in human societies is obviously a silly strawman. A better comparison would be to how crowds of people navigate obstacles or problems.

Have you ever gone on a hike with a large group through rough terrain? Or tried to walk through a concert crowd with your group of friends? Or done an escape room?

Exactly these sorts of transfers of leadership happen seamlessly all the time. Sometimes they’re articulated like “Hey guys I found a way through over here!” and other times they’re accomplished silently as the group notices who’s making quicker progress and gravitates their way.

The people/sheep closest to the current “leader” follow them until that leader’s progress slows, then as they realize the leader is struggling, their body language reflects backward through the group and other members begin looking around for alternatives. Then when someone else finds a new solution, they strike out towards it and the people/sheep nearest them notice the breakthrough and follow accordingly. That body language reflects back through the group until even the previous leader joins in the new direction.

This sounds simply like natural crowd dynamics. Is there something I’m missing about how the sheep do it uniquely?


lerriuqsgniylf t1_ixh53az wrote

> The article’s comparison to formal transfers of political leadership in human societies is obviously a silly strawman. A better comparison would be to how crowds of people navigate obstacles or problems.

Yes this was very frustrating. You can barely call it leadership accurately. It's not even about "this sheep is finding the best grass" and more "we wanted to go that way anyway but you were first to start and we're uncomfortable being away from the flock"


Grinagh t1_ixdvmcn wrote

I'm convinced that the sheep password is even more real now.


mental-floss t1_ixf9vr3 wrote

So, in the case of the sheep walking in circles for almost two weeks was the collective intelligence broken?


crokinoleworld t1_ixe4ut6 wrote

What? They don't complain about the whole process being corrupt and leaders refusing to believe a change?


Antisocialite99 t1_ixexy0a wrote

I just watched a bighorn act as a scout and guide a dozenmpther bighorn behind him a week ago!


i-hoatzin t1_ixf1ogz wrote

I understand everything now.


PbkacHelpDesk t1_ixfwgjm wrote

I love how we keep finding out that all of nature is intelligent and it’s not just us. Meanwhile the earth is dying.


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first_must_burn t1_ixeoch0 wrote

I feel like anyone interested in this must read The Bellwether by Connie Willis. Definitely one of my favorite books. It is fiction, but if you have ever worked in a corporate environment, it hits close to home.


Rasayana85 t1_ixexa7u wrote

The fluidity of this process is surprising? I mean, it's not like i expected sheep communities to be bogged down in byrocracy. What would that even look like?


txipper t1_ixe20tl wrote

There's way too many wolfs in sheep clothing in human societies for there ever to be trust amongst themselves in the sharing of power for the greater good of all.


ThrowbackPie t1_ixff7d5 wrote

Dunno, I think power sharing might be better than following a single psychopath.


txipper t1_ixgb1ti wrote

Wolves in sheep clothing is an analogy of human nature. What would/could be best is not a choice we can make given what we are.


NotThatMadisonPaige t1_ixfk0ua wrote

I think it’s possible but we need to scale down significantly. Humans are capable of this. We’ve done it in the distant past (and still in some places today). Building trust amongst a smallish group (say 15-25 people) would (and could) change everything.


txipper t1_ixgbfuu wrote

Yes, but for that to work, considering that we now have 8 billion people, we’re going to need a bigger boat.


thisoldmould t1_ixem6s2 wrote

Sounds like emergent consciousness.


wilful t1_ixey9u3 wrote

My small flock has two leaders, no rotation. Just one data point of course.


Whatever-ItsFine t1_ixf0zrg wrote

It seems like we’re always learning how much more intelligent animals were than we thought they were. Maybe we need to stop underestimating them.


StrayRabbit t1_ixf4ain wrote

Sheep may have lost true leaders as we know them a long time ago since they are rarely wild and looking after themselves.


dougyoung1167 t1_ixfk3wj wrote

how does the election process happen and do they have some in the flock arguing that it was faked?


PookiePookie26 t1_ixfp5a6 wrote

Given the recent viral post of the sheep in a circle for days… each sheep in that circle were both the Leader and a Follower. Ultimate fulfillment for a sheep maybe ?


im_from_mississippi t1_ixfsd55 wrote

I was super stoned leaving Riot Fest in Chicago in a crowd of thousands of people who just saw MCR. I couldn’t help but notice how we shuffled along at the same pace, naturally good at moving as a massive group of people.


Diabolus0 t1_ixfucuc wrote

Is that the same for starlings?


atheos t1_ixfuhwq wrote

Humans do similar things when navigating in traffic, only they really suck at it.


jdameron t1_ixg7g1z wrote

Baa-ram-ewe! Baa-ram-ewe! To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true! Sheep be true!


ancientweasel t1_ixg9kz2 wrote

In a horse herd the one that goes first is not the leader of the herd. The leader is usually an older mare and probably physically weaker and usually walks in the middle.


GeorgieWashington t1_ixge9sd wrote

Could sheep be used to operate logic gates the way crabs can? And could you run doom with all the sheep in New Zealand?


lerriuqsgniylf t1_ixh4sw9 wrote

"Leader" while used technically correct is misleading. It's not that the sheep decide to follow X and go wherever X goes, it's that a number of sheep want to go to A area, and X is the first to start moving and the others follow. A certain threshold of followers instigates the full herd to follow. This has been researched with other flocking animals as well and they have found subtle signs of "voting" and sheep are no different.

People behave similarly without the flocking. Maybe you're in traffic thinking taking the exit might be quicker but you're fine with sitting in traffic, but you see someone else hop off for the exit and decide yea that's the right move and take the exit. Only difference being sheep flock, so either the exiter turns around when no one follows and comes back or the herd follows.


miss_kimba t1_ixh8lw9 wrote

Not to anyone who has worked with sheep. They make decisions on the fly every second of every day, and usually those are terrible decisions.


Rex_Mundi t1_ixhirt2 wrote

"We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting. By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more important affairs."


VOIDPCB t1_ixhr387 wrote

Getting warmer.

Getting warmer.

Getting warmer.


SuperGameTheory t1_ixhygi4 wrote

It's called emergent behavior. The conclusions derived by the authors do more to show their own biases. They see a pattern and ascribe "hierarchy" and "leaders" to that pattern, then wave away those very concepts by admitting that it's all very fluid and organic.

My bet is they're ascribing "leader" to which ever sheep happens to be in the "front" of the motion. That/those sheep are probably emotionally "pushed" by those behind it, and seeks an area to move to. The sheep behind it probably focus on their closest peer and match their trajectory to that peer. Each sheep probably sticks with matching that peer as long as that peer stays within distance and visual range. When the peer is lost, another peer is elected to follow. This all gives the effect of a hierarchy with a leader. The sheep at the front of the flock will just as readily follow another if given the chance.

Source: I've run this flocking simulation before.


Oishii88 t1_ixhyjor wrote

Sound like the government


edgeplayer t1_ixoq8m4 wrote

No intelligence here. The forces at play here are the same as for schools of fish and flocks of starlings. Each one tries to maintain a relative closeness to others, while also maintaining a relative distance. The result can appear intelligent but is not.


TinfoilTobaggan t1_ixewav2 wrote

American Christianity (oh sorry, Abrahamic religions "including Islam") in a nutshell... Moronic, superstitious SHEEP in a nutshell...


tickles_a_fancy t1_ixf127e wrote

Anti-theists are just as bad... you still spread hate, the enemy are stupid, and you'd be happy if they were eliminated. You also make sure to comment your beliefs on unrelated threads in order to spread your hate to others.

Just because you haven't been around long enough to organize, fully develop your hate, and try for that elimination yourselves doesn't mean you deserve the high ground.