Collective decision-making and fission-fusion dynamics: a conceptual framework

Cedric Sueur, Andrew J. King, Larissa Conradt, Gerald Kerth, David Lusseau, Claudia Mettke-Hofmann, Colleen M. Schaffner, Leah Williams, Dietmar Zinner, Filippo Aureli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


Sociality exists in an extraordinary range of ecological settings. For individuals to accrue the benefits associated with social interactions, they are required to maintain a degree of spatial and temporal coordination in their activities, and make collective decisions. Such coordination and decision-making has been the focus of much recent research. However, efforts largely have been directed toward understanding patterns of collective behaviour in relatively stable and cohesive groups. Less well understood is how fission-fusion dynamics mediate the process and outcome of collective decisions making. Here, we aim to apply established concepts and knowledge to highlight the implications of fission-fusion dynamics for collective decisions, presenting a conceptual framework based on the outcome of a small-group discussion INCORE meeting ( funded by the European Community's Sixth Framework Programme). First, we discuss how the degree of uncertainty in the environment shapes social flexibility and therefore the types of decisions individuals make in different social settings. Second, we propose that the quality of social relationships and the energetic needs of each individual influence fission decisions. Third, we explore how these factors affect the probability of individuals to fuse. Fourth, we discuss how group size and fission fusion dynamics may affect communication processes between individuals at a local or global scale to reach a consensus or to fission. Finally, we off er a number of suggestions for future research, capturing emerging ideas and concepts on the interaction between collective decisions and fission-fusion dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1608-1617
Number of pages10
Issue number11
Early online date29 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • female Bechsteins bats
  • social-structure
  • group-size
  • animal behaviour
  • information
  • baboons
  • leadership
  • evolution
  • synchrony
  • community


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