Herding in human groups is related to high autistic traits

I. Z. Marton-Alper, H. Z. Gvirts-Provolovski, M. Nevat, M. Karklinsky, S. G. Shamay-Tsoory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Herding is ubiquitous throughout all social life forms, providing beneficial outcomes. Here, we examine whether herding emerges spontaneously in human groups and whether it adheres to the core principles of herding observed in the animal kingdom. Using a computerized paradigm involving the movements of circles, we tested the emergence of spontaneous and intentional herding of 136 participants assigned into groups of four participants. Herding was assessed by measuring directional synchrony in the movements of the circles, level of cohesion, and separation between circles. We found that human groups tend to spontaneously herd, particularly in terms of directional synchrony, supporting the notion of a human herding instinct. We further asked whether individuals with high traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit differences in their herding tendencies. Results indicated that individuals with high ASD traits showed greater social separation from the group, compared to individuals with low ASD traits. Moreover, we found diminished spontaneous synchrony, but intact instructed synchrony in the high vs. the low ASD traits group. We contend that humans spontaneously herd with their group and suggest that the spontaneous tendency to synchronize with others is diminished in individuals with high ASD traits, though it is recovered when synchronization is intentional.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17957
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Completion of the manuscript was supported by grant 959/18 from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and by the Graduate Studies Authority of Haifa University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. The authors wish to thank Tom Yuval for his contributions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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