People in crowds behave just like sheep, scientists claim, by blindly following one or two people who seem to know where they are going.
Researchers at Leeds University believe their findings could have important applications, notably in the management of disasters.
The team, led by Prof Jens Krause, conducted a series of experiments in which volunteers were told to walk randomly around a large hall without talking to each other. A select few were then given more detailed instructions.
The results published today show that it takes a minority of just 5 per cent of what they called “informed individuals” to influence the direction of a crowd of a minimum of 200 people. The remaining herd of 95 per cent follow without realising it.