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Understanding collective behaviour - a critical discipline

Here we share a ground-breaking article “Stewardship of global collective behaviour” which draws attention to the negative effects of technological communication on group behaviour.

Here the authors argue that innate human behavioural processes are insufficient to thwart the dynamic forces of today’s digital influences which shape our collective behaviour. The result can be unfavourable outcomes such as “denial, vaccine refusal, treatment of minorities, and unfounded fears regarding the safety of genetically modified food” (p.4). The scale of digital communication has multiplied the speed of connectivity across our human population, where algorithms have been purposefully built to induce and confirm biases to create a perceived reality. Further, the reduced costs of sharing information have aggravated disparities and increased the spread of misinformation where radical content goes unchecked.

To counteract this, the authors suggest leveraging computational technologies such as algorithms and data-driven models to study how information spreads and model human interaction. Yet, academia research is also vulnerable to publication biases, erroneous statistical modelling and a replication crisis. Engaging peer review processes prior to and post publication, pre-registration of studies and the development of ethical standards are active management strategies to promote integral research, but are not without their limitations. The authors retain hope for healthy collective action, emphasising the reliance on high quality research and global ethical standards, yet with microscopic content, the ease of authorship and dissemination of information, this will be no easy feat.

An onus therefore falls upon researchers to publish high quality work that is translatable to the general public; the very mission our Research Institute for children and adolescents seeks to attain.

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