The geometry of decision-making in individuals and collectives

Vivek H. Sridhar, Liang Li, Dan Gorbonos, Máté Nagy, Bianca R. Schell, Timothy Sorochkin, Nir S. Gov, and Iain D. Couzin

PNAS December 14, 2021 118 (50) e2102157118

Almost all animals must make decisions on the move. Here, employing an approach that integrates theory and high-throughput experiments (using state-of-the-art virtual reality), we reveal that there exist fundamental geometrical principles that result from the inherent interplay between movement and organisms’ internal representation of space. Specifically, we find that animals spontaneously reduce the world into a series of sequential binary decisions, a response that facilitates effective decision-making and is robust both to the number of options available and to context, such as whether options are static (e.g., refuges) or mobile (e.g., other animals). We present evidence that these same principles, hitherto overlooked, apply across scales of biological organization, from individual to collective decision-making.

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