Collective cognition in animal groups

Trends Cogn Sci. 2009 Jan;13(1):36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Dec 6.


The remarkable collective action of organisms such as swarming ants, schooling fish and flocking birds has long captivated the attention of artists, naturalists, philosophers and scientists. Despite a long history of scientific investigation, only now are we beginning to decipher the relationship between individuals and group-level properties. This interdisciplinary effort is beginning to reveal the underlying principles of collective decision-making in animal groups, demonstrating how social interactions, individual state, environmental modification and processes of informational amplification and decay can all play a part in tuning adaptive response. It is proposed that important commonalities exist with the understanding of neuronal processes and that much could be learned by considering collective animal behavior in the framework of cognitive science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Environment
  • Group Processes*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Social Behavior*