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Journal Article

Swarm Intelligence: When Uncertainty Meets Conflict

Larissa Conradt, Christian List and Timothy J. Roper
The American Naturalist
Vol. 182, No. 5 (November 2013), pp. 592-610
DOI: 10.1086/673253
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/673253
Page Count: 19
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Swarm Intelligence: When Uncertainty Meets Conflict
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Abstract

AbstractGood decision making is important for the survival and fitness of stakeholders, but decisions usually involve uncertainty and conflict. We know surprisingly little about profitable decision-making strategies in conflict situations. On the one hand, sharing decisions with others can pool information and decrease uncertainty (swarm intelligence). On the other hand, sharing decisions can hand influence to individuals whose goals conflict. Thus, when should an animal share decisions with others? Using a theoretical model, we show that, contrary to intuition, decision sharing by animals with conflicting goals often increases individual gains as well as decision accuracy. Thus, conflict—far from hampering effective decision making—can improve decision outcomes for all stakeholders, as long as they share large-scale goals. In contrast, decisions shared by animals without conflict were often surprisingly poor. The underlying mechanism is that animals with conflicting goals are less correlated in individual choice errors. These results provide a strong argument in the interest of all stakeholders for not excluding other (e.g., minority) factions from collective decisions. The observed benefits of including diverse factions among the decision makers could also be relevant to human collective decision making.

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