Leading by example : an evolutionary perspective on group-decision making
Complex societies are also observable in non-human animals. As an evolutionary biologist, Dr King is trying to identify the mechanisms that underlie -social decisions affecting group-living animals such as risk-taking or leader emergence and to compare them with human behavior.
During his PhD, Dr King studied wild baboons in Namibia and how their leader is “chosen.” For baboons, they don’t choose the taller baboon, but instead their leader emerges as a result of the way the group is structured. It turns out that the baboon with the most developed social network and who is therefore the most influential emerges as the leader.
Dr King does not only study primates. To gain a deeper understanding of the roots of leadership behavior and sociality, he studied groups of fish and found that the groups of individuals that were composed with the “right balance” of fish (with respect to their temperament or personality) were more likely to take risky decisions than groups that are randomly composed. It seems that this diversity is a crucial component to the group’s survival.
Since non-human group-living animals’ behavior is not as complicated as our own, it allows Dr King to make a parallel with our own behavior and to explain some of the drivers. Ultimately, his work identifies some of the core principles that guide social beha-vior that can provide answers to some of the more puzzling management issues we encounter, and perhaps most importantly, how capable we are to adapt to change.
My research focuses on using a question-oriented approach to address a range of issues in behavioural and evolutionary ecology, especially concerning group-living animals (including humans). Blending theoretical modelling and field observations and experiments, I examine how costs and benefits shape individual decisions, and how these behaviours relate to the structure and functioning of groups and populations (or societies in the case of humans).
Institute of Zoology
Why our leaders need a monkey suit
- (1) King, A. J., Narraway, C., Hodgson, L., Weatherill, A., Sommer, V. & Sumner, S. (2011) Performance of human groups in social foraging: the role of communication in consensus decision-making. Biology Letters 7: 237-240.
- (2) Katsikopoulos, K. & King, A. J. (2010) Swarm intelligence in animal groups: When can a collective out-perform an expert? PLoS ONE 5: e15505
- (3) King, A. J. (2010) Follow me! I'm a leader if you do; I'm a failed initiator if you don't? Behavioural Processes. 84: 671-674.
- (4) King, A. J. & Cowlishaw, G. (2009a) Leaders, followers and group decision-making. Communicative & Integrative Biology 2: 147-150.
- (5) King, A. J. & Cowlishaw, G. (2009b) All together now: behavioural synchrony in baboons. Animal Behaviour 78: 1381-1387
And the paper above received the following media coverage:
Good Evening Wales BBC Radio Wales, October 2009.
The World Today BBC World Service, October 2009.
The Today Programme BBC Radio 4, October 2009.
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