Collective Behaviour - Fall Seminar Series 2020/21

The evolution of decision-making, social cognition, and complex sociality

Elizabeth Hobson, University of Cincinnati, USA

Elizabeth Hobson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, USA. Her lab specializes in animal behavior, behavioral ecology, cognitive ecology, social cognition, social network analysis, and computational biology. She integrates aspects of ecology and evolution to determine how the combination of sociality and cognition affect the emergence of group social structures from a combination of individual-level social actions, cognitive abilities, and decisions about future interactions. Detecting the use of social information provides new insight into the connections between social decisions and cognitive processing, how they can be affected by ecological dynamics, and how they can lead to the evolution of complex sociality.

The evolution of decision-making, social cognition, and complex sociality

In many social species individuals create their social worlds through interaction decisions and are then subject to and constrained by these social constructs, which can affect an individual’s future actions. Understanding how much individuals “know” about their social worlds is critical in understanding these potential feedbacks. However, it is difficult to determine how much information individuals have about the social structures in which they live. I present new methods that make detecting the presence and use of social information more tractable and serve as social assays to categorize the social dominance patterns used to direct aggression within dominance hierarchies. Using a historical dataset containing 85 species, I will show how new computational approaches can detect the presence and use of information and rank-based aggression patterns. These approaches, and a taxonomically broad perspective, provide new opportunities to investigate the effect of social information on individual behavior within conflict, and has the potential to provide rigorous evidence for the evolutionary patterns underlying social cognition.

Datum: 2021-02-15