Behaviour 2019
Effect of Experience on Collective Decision-Making
Tovah Kashetsky, Grant Doering, Tricia Skelton, Reuven Dukas. McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Individual expertise allows one to perform better than a novice on a complex task. Social groups also demonstrate expertise. Within groups, collective decision-making is crucial for maintaining function, but it is unknown whether a group’s collective decision-making skills can improve with experience. To investigate this, we tested if repeated experience choosing between two nests during emigration in house-hunting ants (Temnothorax ambiguus) would improve the speed and efficiency with which colonies reach consensus. Twenty colonies emigrated six times with a choice between a good- and medium-quality nest, and another 20 colonies emigrated six times with no choice during emigration (a single nest). Then, we tested all colonies with the choice between a good- and medium-quality nest during a final emigration. Colonies from the choice treatment were faster and more efficient at decisions than colonies from the no-choice treatment. Via social network analysis, work in progress will examine how improvements in collective decision-making arise from the actions of individuals. Studying decision-making in ants will improve our understanding of the mechanisms behind group expertise.