[color=blue] Look at herd animals and tell me that's not heirarchy. </font color=blue>
<br>Contrary to Orwell, Democracy Rules on the Big Animal Farm.....
<br>By JAMES GORMAN
<br>When red deer stand up and honeybees dance, they are not simply stretching
<br>their legs or indicating where the nectar is, according to a new study. As
<br>bizarre as it may seem, they are voting on whether to move to greener
<br>pastures or richer flowers.
<br>The process is unconscious, the researchers say. No deer counts votes or
<br>checks ballots; bees do not know the difference between a dimple and a chad.
<br>But no one deer or bee or buffalo decides when the group moves. If democracy
<br>means that actions are taken based not on a ruler's preference, but the
<br>preferences of a majority, then animals have democracy.
<br>Not surprisingly, decisions based on majority preferences tend to fit in
<br>with what most individuals in the group want. But, the researchers say, this
<br>is not a mere tautology. An analysis based on some hefty mathematical models
<br>that they developed shows that democracy in groups of animals can have a
<br>tangible survival edge over despotism.
<br>Dr. Tim Roper, of the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, who did the
<br>research with Dr. Larissa Conradt and reported it in the current issue of
<br>Nature, said that despite the wording of the paper, "We're very anxious to
<br>avoid any extrapolation to the political domain."
<br>The voting habits of baboons and gorillas and buffalo are not meant to be
<br>comparable to ward politics, attack ads on television or negative
<br>campaigning that ignores the issues.
<br>The parallel to human activity is on a different scale. "There are human
<br>cases of decision making to which our model would be relevant," Dr. Roper
<br>said, like "small groups making rather simple decisions."
<br>He offered an example: "Suppose you've got a few friends who want to meet in
<br>the pub in the evening. In order to all be at the same place in the same
<br>time, they've got to talk it over."
<br>Presumably the deer and swans don't whine as much as people do, or threaten
<br>to find a new flock if everyone keeps going to the same place with the soggy
<br>French fries. But the question ? how the decision gets made ? is the same.
<br>And although human groups have been well studied, and individual animals,
<br>little attention has been paid to decision making by groups of animals.
<br>Dr. Thomas D. Seeley of Cornell, whose research on bees was cited in the
<br>paper, but who was not aware of it in advance, said: "I think it's a very
<br>important paper. The basic phenomenon that they're looking at ? group
<br>decision making ? is actually fairly common, but it's not well studied."
<br>He said that most of the study of animal decision making had been at the
<br>individual level, and although there seemed to be groups that decided, en
<br>masse, to act, "there's really been no theory about why you would expect the
<br>decision making to be democratic, or distributed."
<br>Dr. Seeley said he thought the phrasing of the decision making in terms of
<br>democracy or despotism was fair, and that the paper was "a good first step"
<br>that could lead to other research.
<br>Dr. Conradt and Dr. Roper did their research in two parts. First they
<br>reviewed earlier research to determine whether various group decisions were
<br>being directed by one individual or seemed to come from the group as a
<br>For example, observations of group behavior showed that red deer moved when
<br>more that 60 percent of adults stood up ? that is, voted with their feet. In
<br>African buffalo, he said, adult females made the decisions, voting with the
<br>direction of their gaze.
<br>Whooper swans voted with head movements. They would move when a large number
<br>made low intensity movements, or when a smaller number made high intensity
<br>Somehow, unconsciously, the animals sense when enough of them get the urge
<br>for going. It is certainly a decision by a majority, but what to call it is
<br>another question. Dr. Kathreen Ruckstuhl of the University of Cambridge, who
<br>studies bighorn sheep and was familiar with some of the studies of African
<br>buffalo the paper describes, said, "It all depends on how you define
<br>If no conscious act is required and democracy simply means that the group
<br>acts according to the preference of a majority, then it is democracy. She
<br>did question whether anything corresponding to "despotism" could exist,
<br>since even in a group that followed a leader, the implication of coercion
<br>might be inappropriate.
<br>The more complicated aspect of the research involved mathematical models
<br>that Dr. Conradt and Dr. Roper developed to analyze the benefits to animal
<br>groups of different ways of decision making that they described as
<br>democratic or despotic.
<br>In essence the models compared costs to individuals of not getting to do
<br>things when they wanted to. Having to wait or hurry up was considered a
<br>cost, and the presumption was that for animals as for people, time is money
<br>or food or something important to survival.
<br>These are abstract models, not ways to process the previous research. And
<br>what they show is that when majorities decide, more individuals get what
<br>they want, and that should translate into better survival. There could, of
<br>course, be situations with incredibly smart or sensitive despots that
<br>maximize the benefit to the group, but Dr. Conradt and Dr. Roper did not
<br>come up with them.
<br>Dr. Roper said the research was meant to suggest a new way of looking at
<br>decision making and a new area for research. The models apply only to
<br>animals that make group decisions.
<br>It may be that some animals, like domestic cats, for instance, do not vote,
<br>do not care to vote and have no interest in any sort of group activity. They
<br>were not, however, a subject of the paper.
"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."