Biological Theory

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 220–223 | Cite as

The Collective Misunderstanding Syndrome

Original Article


One of the most significant natural phenomena in the evolution of living beings occurs when a certain number of like individuals construct a new collective individuality. The ideal conditions for this arise when the probability of collective survival is greater than that of individual survival in interaction with environmental uncertainty. In this article, we propose a mechanism whereby a local fluctuation between individuals may have a global impact in creating an innovation that can prove favorable or detrimental to collective survival. This latter case is a situation in which the likelihood of a critical number of influential individuals of a coincident truth falls much more rapidly than a coincident untruth as the number of individual adherents to such unanimities rises. We term this phenomenon the collective misunderstanding syndrome (CMS), and it may explain rare collective behaviors such as the so-called ant mills.


Ant mill Collective understanding Individual reliability Individuals versus individualities Order through fluctuations 


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhysicsUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Dekra-Ambio, SAUBarcelonaSpain

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