Group dynamics: exodus

Self-tutoring about human behaviour: the tutor notes a trait he’s long observed.

Likely, one important reason humans have come to dominate Earth is their ability to cooperate.

Beyond cooperation, humans have another facility which, when noticed, might be even more compelling: their ability to think alike even when they’re not working together.

A few days back, I was at a facility near closing time. I had keys to it, but so did other instructors. A couple of minutes before closing, while my students were leaving, I heard cheerful chatter and noticed people in a nearby room working at computers. “I guess they’re staying late,” I meditated. “No need to lock up – they will.”

I packed up, which took my attention for about four minutes. Turning off the light and leaving my classroom, I looked ahead. The room where, just four minutes earlier, people had been chatting and working, was dark and deserted. Everywhere was silent. I wondered how people, apparently in the middle of a task, working casually, could be long gone four minutes later.

I’ve numerous times observed that, on Saturday afternoon, a shopping mall gets busier and busier from around lunch time. Yet, there comes a time, still awhile before closing, when around half the number of people remain compared to fifteen minutes before. Apparently, the exodus doesn’t happen because of cooperation, but because of synchronicity – hundreds of people simply decide, simultaneously, that it’s time to go. How they pick the time, independently, is a mystery to me. Yet, the majority of people simply, naturally, think the same.

I recall, decades ago, a speech in which the speaker comments that he hears his children, with their friends, playing in the backyard, as usual, one summer afternoon. Five minutes later, he finds the yard deserted. “Children can move long distances very quickly, very suddenly,” he comments. He continues about how he finds them a surprising distance away, playing together as if they’ve been there for hours.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Leave a Reply