How Presidential Debate Audiences are Like Fireflies

“Like ‘congregating fireflies,’ humans show massive sustained entrainment across hundreds of thousands of individuals, in matters of seconds and minutes.”

Riccardo Fusaroli, Marcus Perlman, Alan Mislove, Alexandra Paxton, Teenie Matlock, and Rick Dale published “Timescales of Massive Human Entrainment” in the 10th volume of PLoS ONE, April 2015.

Why the study? Profs Fusaroli, et al., point out that much research has been devoted to a multitude of presidential debate components, but no models have yet been developed to study the collective communication behaviors of human agents in a complex system during a presidential debate. This is the first study to do so. Like fireflies “are entrained in that they match their behavior to the temporal structure of events in the environment,”  the authors aim to understand how massively shared sociomedia events (like presidential debates) might entrain audiences.

They ask, “How does the unfolding action of debates and other broadcasted events impact real-time public attention and response in social media?

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