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IMC Seminar: Talks by Elizabeth Hobson (University of Tennessee) and Simon DeDeo (Indiana University)

"Inferring strategies underlying conflict decisions in animal groups" and "The Information Theoretics of the French Revolution"

2016.05.03 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Tue 10 May
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Buliding 1483-312

Inferring strategies underlying conflict decisions in animal groups

Speaker: Elizabeth Hobson

Abstract: Individuals living in social groups often benefit from sociality, but also compete with group members for limited resources. The ways in animals manage these conflicts can fundamentally affect an individual’s health, stress, reproductive success, and longevity. However, for most animal groups, there is little knowledge of how individuals strategically respond to conflict events, or the kinds of strategy sets which individuals are cognitively capable of using. In this talk, I highlight new results from empirical studies of a highly social avian species, the Monk Parakeet. These results show that individuals condition their aggressive behavior based on a range of strategies, ranging from simple individual-level responses to fight outcomes (individuals increase or decrease overall levels of aggression following wins and losses), to more cognitively demanding attack strategies which are affected by the individual’s knowledge of the identity and rank of individuals involved in the conflict (individuals attack close-ranked potential challengers). I use these insights to begin to deliminate a taxonomy of strategies utilized by individuals to manage conflict. The composition and mixture of strategies can be used to infer the cognitive basis for complex strategy sets across a wide range of species and to compare how different groups respond to and manage intra-group conflict.

Bio: Elizabeth Hobson is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. sites.google.com/site/hobsonresearch


The Information Theoretics of the French Revolution

Speaker: Simon DeDeo

Abstract: In the Summer of 1789, 1,200 people—aristocrats, priests, and members of the rising middle classes—were called to Versailles to help the King solve his debt crisis. What happened next would change the course of history. Guided by information theoretic concepts such as entropy, mutual information, and Bayesian surprise, newly digitized records give us a new insight how this group of elites hammered out a constitution and created the first modern republic in Europe. I show this by presenting collaborative work on over 30,000 speeches made in the first Revolutionary Assembly, and how new ideas are taking up, debated, combined, and discarded over the course of its first critical two years. I show how new information introduced by participants generically leads to volatility and turbulence, and how dramatic external shocks—from celebrations to massacres—modulate and, unexpectedly, suppress these effects. Our work gives a proof-by-example of how simple tools can allow us to challenge traditional economic and utility-based theories of social behavior by quantifying the impact of ideas.

Bio: Simon DeDeo is external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute, and assistant professor at Indiana University, where he runs the Laboratory for Social Minds. santafe.edu/~simon