During consensus decision making, individuals in groups balance personal information (based on their own past experiences) with social information (based on the behavior of other individuals), allowing the group to reach a single collective choice. Previous studies of consensus decision making processes have focused on the informational aspects of behavioral choice, assuming that individuals make choices based solely on their likelihood of being beneficial (e.g., rewarded). However, decisions by both humans and nonhuman animals systematically violate such expectations. Furthermore, the typical experimental paradigm of assessing binary decisions, those between two mutually exclusive options, confounds two aspects common to most group decisions: minimizing uncertainty (through the use of personal and social information) and maintaining group cohesion (for example, to reduce predation risk). Here we experimentally disassociate cohesion-based decisions from information-based decisions using a three-choice paradigm and demonstrate that both factors are crucial to understanding the collective decision making of schooling fish.
Both information and social cohesion determine collective decisions in animal groups
Noam Miller, Simon Garnier, Andrew T. Hartnett, and Iain D. Couzin
PNAS February 25, 2013 201217513