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Collective decision making by rational individuals

By Richard P. Mann

Posted 06 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/363838 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1811964115)

The patterns and mechanisms of collective decision-making in humans and animals have attracted both empirical and theoretical attention. Of particular interest has been the variety of social feedback rules, and the extent to which these behavioural rules can be explained and predicted from theories of rational estimation and decision-making. However, models that aim to model the full range of social information use have incorporated ad hoc departures from rational decision-making theory to explain the apparent stochasticity and variability of behaviour. In this paper I develop a model of social information use and collective decision-making by fully rational agents that reveals how a wide range of apparently stochastic social decision rules emerge from fundamental information asymmetries both between individuals, and between the decision-makers and the observer of those decisions. As well as showing that rational decision-making is consistent with empirical observations of collective behaviour, this model makes several testable predictions about how individuals make decisions in groups, and offers a valuable new perspective on how we view sources of variability in animal, and human, behaviour.

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