Public Event at the ZiF - Lecture

From Democratic Consensus to Cannibalistic Hordes: The Principles of Collective Behaviour

Date: 27 November 2018, 18:15
Location: ZiF Plenarsaal
Iain Couzin (Konstanz, GER)

A fundamental problem in a wide range of biological disciplines is understanding how functional complexity at a macroscopic scale (such as the functioning of a biological tissue) results from the actions and interactions among the individual components (such as the cells forming the tissue). Animal groups such as bird flocks, fish schools and insect swarms frequently exhibit complex and coordinated collective behaviors and present unrivaled opportunities to link the behavior of individuals with the functioning and efficiency of dynamic group-level properties. I will explore how, and why, animals coordinate behavior, from swarm forming insects to schooling fish and human crowds. The remarkable coordination exhibited by schooling fish allows us to explore how a "collective mind" emerges from inter-individual interactions, allowing individuals to access sophisticated computational abilities at the group level. I reveal that emergent problem solving is the predominant mechanism by which mobile animal groups sense, and respond to complex environmental gradients. This distributed sensing requires rudimentary cognition and is shown to be highly robust to noise. I will also demonstrate the critical role uninformed individuals (those who have no information about the feature upon which a collective decision is being made) play in effective consensus decision-making and in the dynamics of opinion formation.

Iain Couzin is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell and Full Professor at the University of Konstanz. Previously he was a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, Assistant Professor at Princeton, a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, and Junior Research Fellow in the Sciences at Balliol College, Oxford. His work aims to reveal the fundamental principles that underlie evolved collective behavior, and consequently his research includes the study of a wide range of biological systems, from cellular and insect swarms, fish schools and human crowds. In recognition of his research he was recipient of a Searle Scholar Award in 2008, the Mohammed Dahleh Award in 2009, top 5 most cited papers of the decade in animal behavior research 1999-2010, Popular Science Magazines "Brilliant 10" Award in 2010, PopTech Science and Public Leadership Award in 2011, the National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award in 2012 and the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 2013.

Please direct questions concerning the organisation to Trixi Valentin at the Conference Office.

Tel: +49 521 106-2768
Fax: +49 521 106-152768