Couzin, Iain D.

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Couzin
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Iain D.
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Counteracting estimation bias and social influence to improve the wisdom of crowds

2018-04, Kao, Albert B., Berdahl, Andrew M., Hartnett, Andrew T., Lutz, Matthew J., Bak-Coleman, Joseph B., Ioannou, Christos C., Giam, Xingli, Couzin, Iain D.

Aggregating multiple non-expert opinions into a collective estimate can improve accuracy across many contexts. However, two sources of error can diminish collective wisdom: individual estimation biases and information sharing between individuals. Here, we measure individual biases and social influence rules in multiple experiments involving hundreds of individuals performing a classic numerosity estimation task. We first investigate how existing aggregation methods, such as calculating the arithmetic mean or the median, are influenced by these sources of error. We show that the mean tends to overestimate, and the median underestimate, the true value for a wide range of numerosities. Quantifying estimation bias, and mapping individual bias to collective bias, allows us to develop and validate three new aggregation measures that effectively counter sources of collective estimation error. In addition, we present results from a further experiment that quantifies the social influence rules that individuals employ when incorporating personal estimates with social information. We show that the corrected mean is remarkably robust to social influence, retaining high accuracy in the presence or absence of social influence, across numerosities and across different methods for averaging social information. Using knowledge of estimation biases and social influence rules may therefore be an inexpensive and general strategy to improve the wisdom of crowds.

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Emergent Sensing of Complex Environments by Mobile Animal Groups

2013-02-01, Berdahl, Andrew, Torney, Colin J., Ioannou, Christos C., Faria, Jolyon J., Couzin, Iain D.

The capacity for groups to exhibit collective intelligence is an often-cited advantage of group living. Previous studies have shown that social organisms frequently benefit from pooling imperfect individual estimates. However, in principle, collective intelligence may also emerge from interactions between individuals, rather than from the enhancement of personal estimates. Here, we reveal that this emergent problem solving is the predominant mechanism by which a mobile animal group responds to complex environmental gradients. Robust collective sensing arises at the group level from individuals modulating their speed in response to local, scalar, measurements of light and through social interaction with others. This distributed sensing requires only rudimentary cognition and thus could be widespread across biological taxa, in addition to being appropriate and cost-effective for robotic agents.

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The Dynamics of Coordinated Group Hunting and Collective Information Transfer among Schooling Prey

2012, Handegard, Nils Olav, Boswell, Kevin M., Ioannou, Christos C., Leblanc, Simon P., Tjøstheim, Dag B., Couzin, Iain D.

Predator-prey interactions are vital to the stability of many ecosystems. Yet, few studies have considered how they are mediated due to substantial challenges in quantifying behavior over appropriate temporal and spatial scales. Here, we employ high-resolution sonar imaging to track the motion and interactions among predatory fish and their schooling prey in a natural environment. In particular, we address the relationship between predator attack behavior and the capacity for prey to respond both directly and through collective propagation of changes in velocity by group members. To do so, we investigated a large number of attacks and estimated per capita risk during attack and its relation to the size, shape, and internal structure of prey groups. Predators were found to frequently form coordinated hunting groups, with up to five individuals attacking in line formation. Attacks were associated with increased fragmentation and irregularities in the spatial structure of prey groups, features that inhibit collective information transfer among prey. Prey group fragmentation, likely facilitated by predator line formation, increased (estimated) per capita risk of prey, provided prey schools were maintained below a threshold size of approximately 2 m(2). Our results highlight the importance of collective behavior to the strategies employed by both predators and prey under conditions of considerable informational constraints.

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Social organisation and information transfer in schooling fish

2011, Ioannou, Christos C., Couzin, Iain D., James, Richard, Croft, Darren P., Krause, Jens

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Potential Leaders Trade Off Goal-Oriented and Socially Oriented Behavior in Mobile Animal Groups

2015, Ioannou, Christos C., Singh, Manvir, Couzin, Iain D.

Leadership is widespread across the animal kingdom. In self-organizing groups, such as fish schools, theoretical models predict that effective leaders need to balance goal-oriented motion, such as toward a known resource, with their tendency to be social. Increasing goal orientation is predicted to increase decision speed and accuracy, but it is also predicted to increase the risk of the group splitting. To test these key predictions, we trained fish (golden shiners, Notemigonus crysoleucas) to associate a spatial target with a food reward (“informed” individuals) before testing each singly with a group of eight untrained fish who were uninformed (“naive”) about the target. Informed fish that exhibited faster and straighter paths (indicative of greater goal orientation) were more likely to reach their preferred target and did so more quickly. However, such behavior was associated with a tendency to leave untrained fish behind and, therefore, with failure to transmit their preference to others. Either all or none of the untrained fish stayed with the trained fish in the majority of trials. Using a simple model of self-organized coordination and leadership in groups, we recreate these features of leadership observed experimentally, including the apparent consensus behavior among naive individuals. Effective leadership thus requires informed individuals to appropriately balance goal-oriented and socially oriented behavior.

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Collective States, Multistability and Transitional Behavior in Schooling Fish

2013, Tunstrøm, Kolbjørn, Katz, Yael, Ioannou, Christos C., Huepe, Cristián, Lutz, Matthew J., Couzin, Iain D.

The spontaneous emergence of pattern formation is ubiquitous in nature, often arising as a collective phenomenon from interactions among a large number of individual constituents or sub-systems. Understanding, and controlling, collective behavior is dependent on determining the low-level dynamical principles from which spatial and temporal patterns emerge; a key question is whether different group-level patterns result from all components of a system responding to the same external factor, individual components changing behavior but in a distributed self-organized way, or whether multiple collective states co-exist for the same individual behaviors. Using schooling fish (golden shiners, in groups of 30 to 300 fish) as a model system, we demonstrate that collective motion can be effectively mapped onto a set of order parameters describing the macroscopic group structure, revealing the existence of at least three dynamically-stable collective states; swarm, milling and polarized groups. Swarms are characterized by slow individual motion and a relatively dense, disordered structure. Increasing swim speed is associated with a transition to one of two locally-ordered states, milling or highly-mobile polarized groups. The stability of the discrete collective behaviors exhibited by a group depends on the number of group members. Transitions between states are influenced by both external (boundary-driven) and internal (changing motion of group members) factors. Whereas transitions between locally-disordered and locally-ordered group states are speed dependent, analysis of local and global properties of groups suggests that, congruent with theory, milling and polarized states co-exist in a bistable regime with transitions largely driven by perturbations. Our study allows us to relate theoretical and empirical understanding of animal group behavior and emphasizes dynamic changes in the structure of such groups.

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Uninformed Individuals Promote Democratic Consensus in Animal Groups

2011-12-16, Couzin, Iain D., Ioannou, Christos C., Demirel, Güven, Gross, Thilo, Torney, Colin J., Hartnett, Andrew, Conradt, Larissa, Levin, Simon A., Leonard, Naomi E.

Conflicting interests among group members are common when making collective decisions, yet failure to achieve consensus can be costly. Under these circumstances individuals may be susceptible to manipulation by a strongly opinionated, or extremist, minority. It has previously been argued, for humans and animals, that social groups containing individuals who are uninformed, or exhibit weak preferences, are particularly vulnerable to such manipulative agents. Here, we use theory and experiment to demonstrate that, for a wide range of conditions, a strongly opinionated minority can dictate group choice, but the presence of uninformed individuals spontaneously inhibits this process, returning control to the numerical majority. Our results emphasize the role of uninformed individuals in achieving democratic consensus amid internal group conflict and informational constraints.

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Visual sensory networks and effective information transfer in animal groups

2013-09, Strandburg-Peshkin, Ariana, Twomey, Colin R., Bode, Nikolai W.F., Kao, Albert B., Katz, Yael, Ioannou, Christos C., Rosenthal, Sara B., Torney, Colin J., Wu, Hai Shan, Couzin, Iain D.

Social transmission of information is vital for many group-living animals, allowing coordination of motion and effective response to complex environments. Revealing the interaction networks underlying information flow within these groups is a central challenge. Previous work has modeled interactions between individuals based directly on their relative spatial positions: each individual is considered to interact with all neighbors within a fixed distance (metric range), a fixed number of nearest neighbors (topological range), a 'shell' of near neighbors (Voronoi range), or some combination (Figure 1A). However, conclusive evidence to support these assumptions is lacking. Here, we employ a novel approach that considers individual movement decisions to be based explicitly on the sensory information available to the organism. In other words, we consider that while spatial relations do inform interactions between individuals, they do so indirectly, through individuals' detection of sensory cues. We reconstruct computationally the visual field of each individual throughout experiments designed to investigate information propagation within fish schools (golden shiners, Notemigonus crysoleucas). Explicitly considering visual sensing allows us to more accurately predict the propagation of behavioral change in these groups during leadership events. Furthermore, we find that structural properties of visual interaction networks differ markedly from those of metric and topological counterparts, suggesting that previous assumptions may not appropriately reflect information flow in animal groups.

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Predatory Fish Select for Coordinated Collective Motion in Virtual Prey

2012-09-07, Ioannou, Christos C., Guttal, Vishwesha, Couzin, Iain D.

Movement in animal groups is highly varied and ranges from seemingly disordered motion in swarms to coordinated aligned motion in flocks and schools. These social interactions are often thought to reduce risk from predators, despite a lack of direct evidence. We investigated risk-related selection for collective motion by allowing real predators (bluegill sunfish) to hunt mobile virtual prey. By fusing simulated and real animal behavior, we isolated predator effects while controlling for confounding factors. Prey with a tendency to be attracted toward, and to align direction of travel with, near neighbors tended to form mobile coordinated groups and were rarely attacked. These results demonstrate that collective motion could evolve as a response to predation, without prey being able to detect and respond to predators.

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Inferring the structure and dynamics of interactions in schooling fish

2011-11-15, Katz, Yael, Tunstrom, Kolbjørn, Ioannou, Christos C., Huepe, Cristián, Couzin, Iain D.

Determining individual-level interactions that govern highly coordinated motion in animal groups or cellular aggregates has been a long-standing challenge, central to understanding the mechanisms and evolution of collective behavior. Numerous models have been proposed, many of which display realistic-looking dynamics, but nonetheless rely on untested assumptions about how individuals integrate information to guide movement. Here we infer behavioral rules directly from experimental data. We begin by analyzing trajectories of golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas) swimming in two-fish and three-fish shoals to map the mean effective forces as a function of fish positions and velocities. Speeding and turning responses are dynamically modulated and clearly delineated. Speed regulation is a dominant component of how fish interact, and changes in speed are transmitted to those both behind and ahead. Alignment emerges from attraction and repulsion, and fish tend to copy directional changes made by those ahead. We find no evidence for explicit matching of body orientation. By comparing data from two-fish and three-fish shoals, we challenge the standard assumption, ubiquitous in physics-inspired models of collective behavior, that individual motion results from averaging responses to each neighbor considered separately; three-body interactions make a substantial contribution to fish dynamics. However, pairwise interactions qualitatively capture the correct spatial interaction structure in small groups, and this structure persists in larger groups of 10 and 30 fish. The interactions revealed here may help account for the rapid changes in speed and direction that enable real animal groups to stay cohesive and amplify important social information.