The inability of the fish to adjust their tendency to lead has interesting implications for human groups. Studies of group psychology in humans have shown that differences in extroversion within a group can help leaders emerge, which leads to improved group performance. Our fish pairs also showed improved group performance in foraging when the difference in boldness was greater, but only when pairs remained in their natural roles. By contrast, when the fish were forced to swap roles, performance decreased because of the weak leadership of shy fish. So when we work as a group, we might learn from the fish by sticking to the roles in which we feel most naturally comfortable, for the good of the team.
Shinnosuke Nakayama does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.