International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 1413–1432 | Cite as

Self-Organization in Primates: Understanding the Rules Underlying Collective Movements

  • Cédric Sueur
  • Jean-Louis Deneubourg


Patterns of collective movements, such as the distribution of leadership and the organization of individuals, may be either homogeneously (no leader, no specific order), or heterogeneously (1 or several leaders, and a highly stable order) distributed. Members of a group need to synchronize their activities and coordinate their movements, despite the fact that they differ in physiological or morphological traits. The degree of difference in these traits may affect their decision-making strategy. We demonstrate how a theoretical model based on a variation of a simple mimetic rule, i.e., an amplification process, can result in each of the various collective movement patterns and decision-making strategies observed in primates and other species. We consider cases in which 1) the needs of different individuals are identical and social relationships are equivalent between group members, 2) the needs of individuals are different and social relationships are equivalent, and 3) the needs of individuals are different and social relationships are different. Finally, 4) we assess how the synergy between 2 mimetism rules, specifically the probability of joining a movement and that of canceling an initiation, allows group members to stay synchronized and cohesive. Our models suggest that similar self-organized processes have been selected as reliable and well-adapted means for optimal collective decisions across species, despite differences in their biological and social characteristics.


Cancellation Cohesion Collective decision Consensus Initiation Leadership Mimetism Quorum Rule of thumb 



We thank Odile Petit, Céline Bret, and 2 anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. We also thank Andrew J. King and Joanna Setchell for their comments as editors. C. Sueur thanks the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for their funding aid. J-L. Deneubourg is a Research Associate, and his work was funded by the Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityInuyamaJapan
  2. 2.Unit of Social EcologyFree University of BrusselsBrusselsBelgium

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