The Wolfpack Effect – perceived animacy of groups.
We look where everybody else is looking, regardless of importance. Here, the center of the directions (orientation) of the group of eyes looking (the arrows – and they did this with little eyeballs too) determined where participants looked, even though the goal was to keep the sheep away from the wolf. They simply couldn’t resist looking at what the group was looking at and they invariably described the group as “animate” – alive.
“These studies introduce a new cue to perceived animacy—the wolfpack effect—that is based on the coordinated orientations of a group of moving objects.
When asked informally to describe such displays (interactive versions of Animation 1.1 online) without any prompting, naive observers frequently invoked notions of animacy and chasing: for example, “Many white arrows were chasing after the green dot”; “The triangles . . . follow the green dot wherever it goes”; and “There were triangles trying to hit me.” “