Bi-Agent Sheep Herding Game Home // Bi-Agent Sheep Herding Game

Project Contacts:
Patrick Nalepka (
Michael J. Richardson (

Game Description
This game required pairs of naïve participants to work together to contain groups of 3, 5, or 7 virtual sheep (i.e. small, ‘wool’-covered balls) within a central target region of a virtual field presented on a large tabletop display. Sheep movement is governed by random Brownian motion. The sheep are also repelled away from virtual dogs (a blue or orange colored box) that the players’ controlled in real-time using hand-held motion tracking sensors. Initially all pairs adopted a kind of search and recover strategy, in which each individual would move toward and corral the sheep furthest from the center of the game field on their side of the table. However, when a pair’s search and recover performance improved to the point where they could consistently and effectively corral the sheep into the target region in the center of the game field, most pairs spontaneously transitioned to a coupled oscillator containment strategy, in which the players synchronously moved back and forth in a semicircular inphase or antiphase manner around the target containment region. Below are two videos: (1) presents examples of these behavioral modes using real participant data; (2) illustrates the behavior of the task dynamic model developed to capture the behavioral dynamics observed.

Real Participant Behavior:

Simulated (Model) Based Behavior

For more information see:
Nalepka, P., Chemero, A., Kallen, R. W., Saltzman, & Richardson, M. J. (2017). Herd Those Sheep: Emergent Multi-Agent Coordination and Behavioral Mode Switching.Psychological Science.

Richardson, M. J., Kallen, R. W., Harrison, S. J., Nalepka, P., Saltzman, E., Lamb, M., Chemero, A., & Schmidt, M. J. (2016). Modeling embedded interpersonal and multiagent coordination.

Nalepka, P., Riehm, C., Mansour, C. B., Chemero, A., & Richardson, M. J. (2015). Investigating Strategy Discovery and Coordination in a Novel Virtual Sheep Herding Game among Dyads. In Noelle, D. C., Dale, R., Warlaumont, A. S., Yoshimi, J., Matlock, T., Jennings, C. D., & Maglio, P. P. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.