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Nonlinear Dynamics of Networks

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Collective Motion and Decision-Making in Animal Groups

Iain Couzin

Princeton University


Abstract:   Grouping organisms, such as flocking birds and schooling fish, often have to make rapid decisions in uncertain and dangerous environments. Decision-making by individuals within such aggregates is so seamlessly integrated that it has been associated with the concept of a collective mind. Although each organism has relatively local sensing ability, coordinated animal groups have evolved collective strategies that allow individuals to access higher-order computational abilities at the collective level. Using a combined theoretical and experimental approach involving insect and vertebrate groups, I will address how, and why, individuals move in unison and investigate the principles of information transfer in these groups, particularly focusing on leadership and the role of uninformed individuals in collective consensus decision-making processes. These results will be discussed in the context of the evolution of collective biological systems.

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