From the first intention movement to the last joiner: macaques combine mimetic rules to optimize their collective decisions

C. Sueur, J. L. Deneubourg, O. Petit


Mechanisms related to collective decision making have recently been found in almost all animal reigns from amoebae to worms, insects and vertebrates, including human beings. Decision-making mechanisms related to collective movements—including pre-departure and joining—have already been studied at different steps of the movement process, but these studies were always carried out separately. We therefore have no understanding of how these different processes are related when they underlie the same collective decision-making event. Here, we consider the whole departure process of two groups of Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana), using a stochastic model. When several exclusive choices are proposed, macaques vote and choose the majority. Individuals then join the movement according to a mimetism based on affiliative relationships. The pre-departure quorum and the joining mimetic mechanism are probably linked, but we have not yet identified which transition mechanism is used. This study shows that decision-making related to macaque group movements is governed by a quorum rule combined with a selective mimetism at departure. This is the first time that transition mechanisms have been described in mammals, which consequently helps understand how a voting process leads to social amplification. Our study also provides the first complete proof that there is continuity in the decision-making processes underlying collective movements in mammals from the first intention movement right through to the last joiner.

  • Received September 28, 2010.
  • Accepted October 26, 2010.
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