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Pattern insight + emergence

Delving beneath the surface of life at Patternity Studio

04.12.14

PATTERN EXPLORATION | WALL STREET UNDERWATER

Finding similarities between human and animal behaviour isn’t difficult, as many areas of human activity, from social instincts to mating rituals, have clear parallels in the natural world. It’s comparatively unusual, however, for scientists to employ a mathematical model from the human sphere to analyse behaviour in the animal kingdom.

Zebrafish Behaviour Study

STRIPED SHOAL Image: Zebrafish, Eötvös University

PATTERNITY was therefore interested to uncover news of a research group applying a mathematical model normally used to track fluctuations in the stock market to predict the behaviour of zebrafish shoals. Zebrafish – so named, of course, for their own pattern resemblance to zebras – are frequently used as stand-ins for humans in social-behaviour experiments because of their genetic similarity. A team of mechanical engineers mapping the fishes’ movements noted that their motion didn’t follow an established pattern so much as a series of alternating drifts and sharp turns – uncannily reminiscent of the minor shifts and sudden dips that characterise the movements of stock market data over time. By adapting the mathematical model (known as the stochastic jump process) employed by financial analysts, the researchers were able to create a computer simulation of group behaviour in zebrafish that could be used to determine their social responses to certain stimuli – a breakthrough that paves the way for quicker, cheaper future experiments that could be developed to predict the way humans react en masse to changes in conditions.

WallStreet PitThe floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange as seen in James Allen Smith’s Floored. Photo: Trader Film

Thus, a pattern from the man-made realm of finance finds a parallel in the natural world – underlining PATTERNITY’s founding belief that patterns echo and recur across every facet of existence, from the heights of Wall Street skyscrapers to the depths of the river…

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