Social information and spontaneous emergence of leaders in human groups

Shinnosuke Nakayama, Elizabeth Krasner, Lorenzo Zino, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the dynamics of social networks is the objective of interdisciplinary research ranging from animal collective behaviour to epidemiology, political science and marketing. Social influence is key to comprehending emergent group behaviour, but we know little about how inter-individual relationships emerge in the first place. We conducted an experiment where participants repeatedly performed a cognitive test in a small group. In each round, they were allowed to change their answers upon seeing the current answers of other members and their past performance in selecting correct answers. Rather than following a simple majority rule, participants granularly processed the performance of others in deciding how to change their answers. Toward a network model of the experiment, we associated a directed link of a time-varying network with every change in a participant's answer that mirrored the answer of another group member. The rate of growth of the network was not constant in time, whereby links were found to emerge faster as time progressed. Further, repeated interactions reinforced relationships between individuals' performance and their network centrality. Our results provide empirical evidence that inter-individual relationships spontaneously emerge in an adaptive way, where good performers rise as group leaders over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20180938
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number151
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Collective behaviour
  • Dynamic networks
  • Leadership
  • Network evolution
  • Opinion formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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