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PLoS One. 2018 Apr 4;13(4):e0193843. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193843. eCollection 2018.

Critical diversity: Divided or united states of social coordination.

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Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, United States of America.
Intelligent System Research Centre, Ulster University, Derry ~ Londonderry, Northern Ireland.


Much of our knowledge of coordination comes from studies of simple, dyadic systems or systems containing large numbers of components. The huge gap 'in between' is seldom addressed, empirically or theoretically. We introduce a new paradigm to study the coordination dynamics of such intermediate-sized ensembles with the goal of identifying key mechanisms of interaction. Rhythmic coordination was studied in ensembles of eight people, with differences in movement frequency ('diversity') manipulated within the ensemble. Quantitative change in diversity led to qualitative changes in coordination, a critical value separating régimes of integration and segregation between groups. Metastable and multifrequency coordination between participants enabled communication across segregated groups within the ensemble, without destroying overall order. These novel findings reveal key factors underlying coordination in ensemble sizes previously considered too complicated or 'messy' for systematic study and supply future theoretical/computational models with new empirical checkpoints.

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