[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Researchers have discovered that improving voter turnout tends to result in better decision-making—at least amongst fish. A recent study of stickleback found that they select a leader by consensus and, the more fish in the pool, the more likely they’ll make a good choice.
In the experiment, a school of fish was presented with two mock candidates for leader. One of the fake fish swam left, the other right. The pack of real fish was then allowed to decide which leader to follow. According to the study, which was published recently in the journal Current Biology, the stickleback tended to follow the candidate that looked the healthiest. Larger or fatter fish, for example, were usually chosen over smaller fish. Fish with spots—often a telltale sign of disease—generally lost out to a non-spotty adversary. The fish also seemed to have a preference for a more richly colored candidate, though the researchers say they have yet to determine why. Maybe his environmental record won them over?