“Everything is awesome!” My son reminds us all of that at least once a day. He’s a bit obsessed with The LEGO Movie these days, and that musical number gets him excited every time. “Everything is coolÂ whenÂ you’reÂ part of aÂ team” isÂ a decent summary of the research findings discussed in an earlier Science Corner post. Using mathematical models of group dynamics, it was observed that hierarchical social groups, where some members have more power and more rewards than others, were more collectively successful in the long run than groups where everyone shared equally. In particular, even the members at the bottom of the hierarchy, who gainedÂ no direct advantages over their colleagues within their own group because of that hierarchy, were better off than their peers in the other groups.
The study set out to explore how hierarchies came to exist. Empirically, many groups of humans have some kind of hierarchy, from the governments of nations to the captains ofÂ ad hoc playground baseball teams. The existence of leaders is so common that it may seem natural, obvious, perhaps even self-evident that they provide value to a group. Yet such organizational structures imply that someone has more — more power, more influence, more wealth. If someone has more, than by definition someone else has less.Â Giving up what one has to allow someone else to have more seems disadvantageous, at least in the short term. Nowadays we might know from experience that such a dynamic can be beneficial, but that doesn’t explain the very first such choice. Are there conditions that would make one participate willingly? Or must leadership always be seized? [Read more…] about Science in Review: Becoming Top Stud of Legoland