InterJournal Complex Systems, 240
Status: Accepted
Manuscript Number: [240]
Submission Date: 981214
A New Paradigm for Animal Social Systems
Author(s): Jeff Schank

Subject(s): CX.1, CX.3

Category: Brief Article


Animals from diverse taxa exhibit a variety of social organizations. Examples range from social insects, birds and mammals including humans. A basic premise of the paradigm outlined here is that most animal social organizations are self-organizing: they emerge from the local interactions of individuals. Animal social systems are complex and an adequate understanding of individual behavior requires studying individuals in their social context. In psychology, however, the study of learning behavior in animals has often employed experimental paradigms that isolate the individual from its social and naturalistic contexts. In this paper, I outline a new paradigm for discovering rules of individual behavior from which social organization emerges. This new paradigm is based on a fundamental premise of complex systems: the effect of isolating a part is typically greater for the part than it is for the system from which it is isolated. The new paradigm aims to take advantage of a variety of technological advances in the study of complex systems in order to better understand how social organization in animals emerge and evolve from individuals following relatively simple sets of behavioral rules. These technological tools include agent-based modeling, Darwinian algorithms, image tracking and analysis algorithms, and robotics. This new paradigm should be of general interest to complexity researchers, and for those interested in human social systems and organizations.

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