Optimal information transfer and stochastic resonance in collective decision making

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    21 Citations (Scopus)


    Self-organised collective decision making is one of the core components of swarm intelligence, and numerous swarm algorithms that are widely used in optimisation and optimal control have been inspired by the biological mechanisms driving it. Beyond the life sciences and bio-inspired engineering, collective decision making is important in a number of other disciplines, most prominently economics and the social sciences. A paradigmatic model system for collective decision making is the foraging behaviour of mass recruiting ant colonies. While this system has been investigated extensively, our knowledge about its function in dynamic environments is still incomplete at best. We show that the mathematical model of mass foraging is really just a specific instance of a very general class of rational group decision making processes. We analyse this general class using an information-theoretic framework, which allows us to abstract from the specific details of a fixed model system. We specifically investigate how noisy communication can enable groups to share information about changes in an environment more efficiently. In the present paper, we show that an optimal noise level exists and that this optimal level depends on the rate of change in the environment. We explain this on the basis of stochastic resonance theory and show why stochastic attractor switching is a suitable base mechanism for adaptive group decision making in dynamic environments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)131-154
    Number of pages24
    JournalSwarm Intelligence
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


    • Ant colonies
    • Collective decision making
    • Information theory
    • Self-organised behaviour
    • Stochastic resonance

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