International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 1433–1442 | Cite as

All Together Now: The Need for a Combined Empirical and Modeling Approach When Studying Primate Group Coordination

  • Odile Petit


Studies of collective decision making attempt to explain the simultaneous behaviors of many individuals and how these contribute to the behavior observed at a collective level. However, this can be problematic to achieve given the general constraints of field or experimental data. This is particularly the case for primates, and results in limited reproducibility of events and it is difficult to separate the effects of different variables. Advocates of theoretical models have proposed that simple rules of interaction successfully reproduce different phases of group movement and the transitions between them, and greatly contribute to our knowledge of complex phenomena. Models can simulate practically any situation and tell us what response would emerge from it, including complex situations such as group decision making. The general heuristic value of these models has been universally recognized. However, the modeling approach tends to oversimplify real situations, and very few biological validations yet exist. I here suggest that it is essential to confront theoretical results with real data and that the combination of the 2 approaches will substantially improve our comprehension of collective decision making.


Collective movement Field data Giving up Group decision making Models 



I thank the 3 anonymous reviewers and Andrew King and Joanna Setchell for their constructive comments for improving the manuscript. I also thank Cédric Sueur and Andrew King for the invitation to publish in this special issue.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université de Strasbourg, IPHCStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, UMR7178StrasbourgFrance
  3. 3.Social Ecology UnitFree University of BrusselsBrusselsBelgium

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