Turns Out Fish Lose Their Personalities When They Go To ‘School’
On Wednesdays, we wear pink (gills).
Remember the first day of high school, when you picked out that super-edgy outfit and promised to reinvent yourself as a Harajuku girl/beat poet/rockabilly, only to bow to the majority and return to sneakers and jeans on day two? Well, it turns out humans aren’t the only multi-celled organisms to succumb to peer pressure. A recent study from the University of Bristol shows fish also lose their individuality when they’re put in “schools.”
While you might not think a gaping-mouthed goldfish has a lot of charisma, researchers determined that fish do indeed have distinct personalities and the braver individuals tend to lead the group.
However, the study shows that when fish are put in risky situations and need to make a group decision, their unique behavioral differences disappear. The pressure to conform (or go with the flow ?) outweighs the will of the individual in group decision-making.
Lead researcher Dr. Christos Iannou summed it up like this:
“The behaviour of the fish seems to be ‘plastic’ to the social situation — they show consistent individual differences in behaviour when tested alone — reflecting personality, but they are also happy to suppress this to be able to stick together with their shoal mates if there are others around.”
If that’s not a straight-up metaphor for high school, I don’t know what is. Here’s to being plastic!