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From house-hunting honeybees to Weber's law and speed-accuracy trade-offs

Effective decision-making is crucial for organisms at all levels of biological complexity. I will present a model of collective decision-making based on empirical observations of a novel cross-inhibitory behaviour in house-hunting honeybee swarms. The pattern of interactions observed in collectively-deciding honeybees gives rise to a number of important value-sensitive decision-making characteristics. The model is able to achieve stable deadlock for poor but equal alternatives, but spontaneously choose between good alternatives. This enables sophisticated 'wait and see' decision-making. The model's  sensitivity to value is similar to Weber's law of just-noticable-difference from psychology. When differences are large enough to be noticeable, the model exhibits speed-accuracy trade-offs in decision-making similar to classic models from psychology. Given the simplicity of the model, the importance of value-sensitivity, and the similar patterns of interaction seen in other decision-making systems, I will ask whether genetic switches and neural circuits may exist that implement the same basic decision mechanism, and present preliminary data from psychological experiments designed to test the behavioural predictions of the model.

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