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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Jul 5;367(1597):1802-10. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0214.

Multiple time-scales and the developmental dynamics of social systems.

Author information

1
Center for Complexity and Collective Computation, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Madison, WI 53715, USA. jflack@santafe.edu

Abstract

To build a theory of social complexity, we need to understand how aggregate social properties arise from individual interaction rules. Here, I review a body of work on the developmental dynamics of pigtailed macaque social organization and conflict management that provides insight into the mechanistic causes of multi-scale social systems. In this model system coarse-grained, statistical representations of collective dynamics are more predictive of the future state of the system than the constantly in-flux behavioural patterns at the individual level. The data suggest that individuals can perceive and use these representations for strategical decision-making. As an interaction history accumulates the coarse-grained representations consolidate. This constrains individual behaviour and provides the foundations for new levels of organization. The time-scales on which these representations change impact whether the consolidating higher-levels can be modified by individuals and collectively. The time-scales appear to be a function of the 'coarseness' of the representations and the character of the collective dynamics over which they are averages. The data suggest that an advantage of multiple timescales is that they allow social systems to balance tradeoffs between predictability and adaptability. I briefly discuss the implications of these findings for cognition, social niche construction and the evolution of new levels of organization in biological systems.

PMID:
22641819
PMCID:
PMC3367696
DOI:
10.1098/rstb.2011.0214
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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