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“Leaders Are Born, Not Made, Fish Study Finds”

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Leaders Are Born, Not Made, Fish Study Finds
An experiment to train bold stickleback fish to be followers and shy fish to be leaders produces unexpected results

The inability of the fish to adjust their tendency to lead has interesting implications for human groups. Studies of group psychology in humans have shown that differences in extroversion within a group can help leaders emerge, which leads to improved group performance. Our fish pairs also showed improved group performance in foraging when the difference in boldness was greater, but only when pairs remained in their natural roles. By contrast, when the fish were forced to swap roles, performance decreased because of the weak leadership of shy fish. So when we work as a group, we might learn from the fish by sticking to the roles in which we feel most naturally comfortable, for the good of the team.”

By Shinnosuke Nakayama, University of Cambridge

… leaders and followers to the extreme but they exist throughout the animal kingdom…
Leaders and followers are found in many group-living animals, such as fish, birds and primates. Group living can offer many benefits to group members, such as increasing the chances of finding food or avoiding predators. Unlike some human workplaces, groups of animals know that they need to agree on where to go and when to go there in order to take full advantage of group living.

Leaders share common characteristics, so are to some extent predictable. In humans, leaders generally show higher scores in certain personality traits, notably extraversion. Similarly, in animals, bolder and more active individuals tend to be found as leaders. Evolutionary theories suggest that boldness and leadership can coevolve through positive feedback. Individuals who force their preferences on others are more likely to be followed, which in turn encourages these individuals to initiate more often.

Following Fish
This feedback results in distinct social roles for leaders and followers within a group, as shown by several experimental studies. It would therefore seem that leaders and followers are born through natural selection, and that you have no chance of becoming a leader if you are born a follower. But our work with stickleback fish suggests that while followers may not have what it takes to lead, leaders can learn to follow.
….

Role Reversal
…for both bold and shy individuals, the tendency to lead is much less flexible than the tendency to follow. The bold fish readily adapted to following but the shy fish could not be trained to lead, even when it learnt to stop following the other fish.

We learnt that fish can learn to follow but struggle to learn to lead regardless of their personality…
The inability of the fish to adjust their tendency to lead has interesting implications for human groups. Studies of group psychology in humans have shown that differences in extroversion within a group can help leaders emerge, which leads to improved group performance. Our fish pairs also showed improved group performance in foraging when the difference in boldness was greater, but only when pairs remained in their natural roles. By contrast, when the fish were forced to swap roles, performance decreased because of the weak leadership of shy fish. So when we work as a group, we might learn from the fish by sticking to the roles in which we feel most naturally comfortable, for the good of the team.”

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Written by Rich and Co.

August 29, 2013 at 9:28 am

Posted in Behavioral

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