Leader-follower relationships are commonly hypothesized as a fundamental mechanism underlying collective behaviour in many biological and physical systems. Understanding the emergence of such behaviour is relevant in science and engineering to control the dynamics of complex systems toward a desired state. In prior works, due in part to the limitations of existing methods for dissecting intermittent causal relationships, leadership is assumed to be consistent in time and space. This assumption has been contradicted by recent progress in the study of animal behaviour. In this work, we leverage information theory and time series analysis to propose a novel and simple method for dissecting changes in causal influence. Our approach computes the cumulative influence function of a given individual on the rest of the group in consecutive time intervals and identify change in the monotonicity of the function as a change in its leadership status. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach to dissect potential changes in leadership on self-propelled particles where the emergence of leader-follower relationship can be controlled and on tandem flights of birds recorded in their natural environment. Our method is expected to provide a novel methodological tool to further our understanding of collective behaviour.
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Mwaffo, Violet; Keshavan, Jishnu; Hedrick, Tyson L.; and Humbert, Sean, "Detecting intermittent switching leadership in coupled dynamical systems" (2018). Mechanical Engineering Faculty Contributions. 77.