The U.S. presidential election, American Idol, and the Academy Awards have one thing in common: Lots of people come together to decide the winner. Scientists are finding that such collective decision-making is much more complicated than it appears on the surface. The uninformed play an important role in keeping a group from getting hijacked by minority opinions, for example. What else are researchers learning about groupthink? Do humans make decisions differently from the way other animals do? And how might research into decision-making affect everything from television advertising to presidential campaigns?
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Iain Couzin joined the Princeton University faculty in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in late 2007. His work aims to reveal the fundamental principles that underlie evolved collective behavior, and consequently his research includes the study of a wide range of biological systems, from brain tumors to insect swarms, fish schools and human crowds.
Jevin West is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Washington. He is interested in how information moves through social and biological networks and how this movement affects the evolution of these complex systems.