Couzin, Iain D.

Iain D.

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Collective conflict resolution in groups on the move

2018-03-12, Pinkoviezky, Itai, Couzin, Iain D., Gov, Nir S.

Collective decision-making regarding direction of travel is observed during natural motion of animal and cellular groups. This phenomenon is exemplified, in the simplest case, by a group that contains two informed subgroups that hold conflicting preferred directions of motion. Under such circumstances, simulations, subsequently supported by experimental data with birds and primates, have demonstrated that the resulting motion is either towards a compromise direction or towards one of the preferred targets (even when the two subgroups are equal in size). However, the nature of this transition is not well understood. We present a theoretical study that combines simulations and a spin model for mobile animal groups, the latter providing an equilibrium representation, and exact solution in the thermodynamic limit. This allows us to identify the nature of this transition at a critical angular difference between the two preferred directions: in both flocking and spin models the transition coincides with the change in the group dynamics from Brownian to persistent collective motion. The groups undergo this transition as the number of uninformed individuals (those in the group that do not exhibit a directional preference) increases, which acts as an inverse of the temperature (noise) of the spin model. When the two informed subgroups are not equal in size, there is a tendency for the group to reach the target preferred by the larger subgroup. We find that the spin model captures effectively the essence of the collective decision-making transition and allows us to reveal a noise-dependent trade-off between the decision-making speed and the ability to achieve majority (democratic) consensus.

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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


Heterogeneous Preference and Local Nonlinearity in Consensus Decision Making

2016, Hartnett, Andrew T., Schertzer, Emmanuel, Levin, Simon A., Couzin, Iain D.

In recent years, a large body of research has focused on unveiling the fundamental physical processes that living systems utilize to perform functions, such as coordinated action and collective decision making. Here, we demonstrate that important features of collective decision making among higher organisms are captured effectively by a novel formulation of well-characterized physical spin systems, where the spin state is equivalent to two opposing preferences, and a bias in the preferred state represents the strength of individual opinions. We reveal that individuals (spins) without a preference (unbiased or uninformed) play a central role in collective decision making, both in maximizing the ability of the system to achieve consensus (via enhancement of the propagation of spin states) and in minimizing the time taken to do so (via a process reminiscent of stochastic resonance). Which state (option) is selected collectively, however, is shown to depend strongly on the nonlinearity of local interactions. Relatively linear social response results in unbiased individuals reinforcing the majority preference, even in the face of a strongly biased numerical minority (thus promoting democratic outcomes). If interactions are highly nonlinear, however, unbiased individuals exert the opposite influence, promoting a strongly biased minority and inhibiting majority preference. These results enhance our understanding of physical computation in biological collectives and suggest new avenues to explore in the collective dynamics of spin systems.


Leadership, collective motion and the evolution of migratory strategies

2014-11-05, Guttal, Vishwesha, Couzin, Iain D.

Migration is a hallmark life history strategy of a diverse range of organisms, and also ubiquitous in ontogenic processes including normal embryonic development as well as tumor progression. In such scenarios, individual organisms/cells typically respond to long range (and often noisy) environmental cues. In addition, individuals may interact socially with one another leading to emergent group-level navigational abilities. Although much progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms of taxis, there is a lack of theoretical and quantitative understanding of how individuals trade-off information obtained through their own migratory ability and that via social interactions. Here, we discuss results and insights from a recent computational model developed to investigate the evolution of leadership and collective motion in migratory populations. It is shown that, for a broad range of parameter values, only a small proportion of the population gather directional information while the majority employ social cues alone. More generally, ecological conditions for the evolution of resident, solitary and collective migratory strategies are obtained. We discuss how consideration of both proximate and ultimate factors within the same framework may provide insights into preserving migratory patterns that are in grave danger due to anthropogenic pressures.