Predicting economic market crises using measures of collective panic
Predicting panic is of critical importance in many areas of human and animal behavior, notably in the context of economics. The recent financial crisis is a case in point. Panic may be due to a specific external threat, or self-generated nervousness. Here we show that the recent economic crisis and earlier large single-day panics were preceded by extended periods of high levels of market mimicry --- direct evidence of uncertainty and nervousness, and of the comparatively weak influence of external news. High levels of mimicry can be a quite general indicator of the potential for self-organized crises.