How do 100 people walk a tightrope together? An experiment in large scale joint action


A lecture hall full of people played a computer game together. Their goal was to keep a tightrope walker balanced. Each had a handset that could deliver a left or right nudge. The tightrope walker was also pelted by tomatoes which knocked him off balance. Across several games, the difficulty of the task was changed by the frequency of tomatoes and whether or not they were visible. After each game, the participants rated their own and the group’s performance. We analysed the button presses of individuals, and quantified how they related to the moment by moment action of the group and movement of the tightrope walker. On successful games, participants were able to anticipate the behaviour of the group and kept the tightrope walker in equilibrium.

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