Why so many species of animals live in groups has been extensively studied since the early days of behavioral ecology, but how permanent cohesion and social order are maintained in different species and types of social systems despite various costs of group living and ubiquitous potential for inter-individual conflict remains poorly known. The various benefits of group living can only be reaped if group cohesion is maintained and the unavoidable conflicts arising from social competition and different individual needs are managed somehow. In some types of groups, the maintenance of cohesion is the primary objective, which appears to be achieved via self-organization. In other types of groups, collective decisions based on a range of processes, including quorum decisions and leadership by one or a few individuals, mitigate conflicts of interest and entail group cohesion. Finally, recent research has begun to reveal that social conformity and norms play an import role in structuring individual behavior within groups of some species; often with interesting variation among groups or populations.
As we are beginning to recognize and to appreciate the diversity of behavioral processes and mechanisms organizing and structuring social life, research on these topics can benefit from an exchange of concepts and methods across disciplines and approaches. For example, there is much theoretical work exploring mechanisms of cohesion and collective decisions awaiting empirical testing in different study systems. In addition, we still know little about the determinants of interspecific variation in the presence and potential context-dependence of social coordination processes. Finally, from the human perspective, it is interesting to ask how collective decisions are made in different societies and cultures, and where the many social and moral norms guiding our behavior today had their evolutionary origins.
While exciting and cutting-edge research on all of these aspects is happening in different disciplines, and on a diversity of study systems ranging from bacteria to humans, there are few opportunities at professional meetings to address and discuss these related questions in a comprehensive manner. The goal of this conference is, therefore, to bring together the internationally leading researchers from each of these fields of study for comprehensive contemplation of how animals and humans organize their social lives.
Invited speakers will provide overviews of different aspects of the general topic. We also welcome submissions for additional (15 min) oral and poster presentations on group cohesion, collective decision-making and conformity in any taxon.
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