It is a point of biological fact that unity, matching, coordination, and mimicry are powerful and effective tools in the global struggle that is evolution. Consider animals, for example the black Labrador, they all—ALL—dress the same. Every black Labrador you’ve ever seen is wearing the same costume: a black fur coat. Its black coat is so much a part of its identity that if it wears anything else then it’s called something else like a yellow Labrador, brown Labrador, Dalmatian, or pug. This is not unique to dogs! Consider tigers, squirrels, blue whales, carpenter ants, slugs, manatees, skunks, etc.—the list goes on and on. And the reason that the list goes on and on is that nature has found out that if you match, if you coordinate, then you survive. And if you survive then you can make an impact on your environment. And if you make an impact on your environment then you get attention and attention means that the camera operator hunkered down in the helicopter flying low over the Alps looking for b-roll to add to today’s TDF coverage will be drawn to you, to your coordination, and that you will then be featured on TV screens throughout the world, and thus your friends and family and even strangers back home will see you, cycling fans will envy you, and other photographers/videographers/journalists will be drawn to you.
“This attention snowball is, if you stop to think about, the entire reason you decided to coordinate in the first place. You may not be racing but you have, in effect, won. Congratulations.”
If the effectiveness of coordination is so obvious why doesn’t everyone do it? Well, coordination as a attention device in the human social theater isn’t as straightforward as it is in the rest of the animal kingdom. Human actors need to consider various factors before deciding to coordinate, the most important of which being the ratio of coordinated to un-coordinated elements. For example, if a couple shows up coordinated while the rest of the group is uncoordinated, the pair risks the scorn of the group. On the other hand, if the couple shows up coordinated to a situation packed with coordinated pairs, then the effect of the coordination is nullified. Zergev and Thomas, in their landmark study on Pair Coordination in hyper-socio environments, note that, “When given an option to coordinate, pairs must consider X = the number of other individuals in the HSE, Y= the estimated number of coordinated pairs in the HSE. If Y/X is < or = .15 then Coordination Pairs can assume a positive response from their coordination. If Y/X is between .15 and .2 then there is only a 50% chance of a positive response and anything higher than .2 will elicit a negative response.”
So there is risk involved when deciding whether to coordinate. However, in mass spectacle events such as the TDF, the number of actors renders Zergev and Thomas’ observation null and void. The mass spectacle event is a safe space for coordinated pairs regardless of context, a space where they can shine, a space where they can WOW. As such, the TDF is rife for observing and identifying coordinated pairs. And this is yet another reason why this race is considered the greatest sporting spectacle in the world.
Reference: Thomas, Vance Ph.d. and Zergev, Angela Ph.d., “Humans, Coordination, and Winning Society” – Atlantic Peacock Press 2007