The Standing Ovation Problem
"The basic SOP can be stated as: A brilliant economics lecture ends and the audience begins to applaud. The applause builds and tentatively, a few audience members may or may not decide to stand. Does a standing ovation ensue or does the enthusiasm fizzle?
Inspired by the seminal work of Schelling (1978), the SOP possesses sucient structure to generate nontrivial dynamics without imposing too many a priori modeling constraints. Like Schelling's work, it focuses on the macro-behavior that emerges from micro-motives, and relies on models that emphasize agents driven by simple behavioral algorithms placed in interesting spatial contexts.
Though ostensibly simple, the social dynamics responsible for a standing ovation are complex. As the performance ends, each audience member must decide whether or not to stand. Of course, if the decision to stand is simply a personal choice based on the individual's own assessment of the worth of the performance, the problem becomes trivial. However, people do not stand solely based upon their own impressions of the performance. A seated audience member surrounded by people standing might be enticed to stand, even if he hated the performance. This behavioral mimicry could be strategic (the agents wants to send the right signal to the lecturer), informational (maybe the lecture was better than he thought), or conformal (he stands so as to not feel awkward). Regardless of the source of these peer effects, they set the stage (so to speak) for interesting dynamic behavior."
Miller, John, and Scott E. Page (2004) Complexity, Vol. 9, No. 5, May/June