Research Fellows Directory
Dr Dora Biro
University of Oxford
for group members are numerous, and the resulting societies are often intricately organized webs of social relationships and interactions. My research focuses on several issues faced by members of such societies: what is the nature of individuals’ interactions with each other, how do they reach joint decisions about common problems, how does information pass from one individual to another, and how does the presence of others impact individuals’ interactions with their environment? My overarching aim is to gain insight into the general principles underlying group living in animals.
My research uses a combination of experimental, observational, and theoretical studies of animal behaviour to elucidate the mechanisms governing social living. I focus on social interactions among individuals in two model systems: during collective motion by flocks of birds, and in the maintenance of cultural traditions in wild primate communities. I exploit the fact that in both cases groups of individuals represent a pool of available information: I examine, for instance, how flocks of birds heading for a given destination agree on a route despite conflicts in individual opinion, and how young chimpanzees draw on the skills and knowledge of older group members to acquire group-typical behavioural customs.
The questions I explore have clear relevance to all social-living species. Humans face collective decisions daily: coordinating activities with friends, or electing leaders whose decisions affect society as a whole. Human culture is built upon an ever-expanding array of traditions: what is the evolutionary basis of our ability to learn from each other and to maintain group-specific norms? By studying such questions in organisms both distantly and closely related to Homo sapiens, I hope to shed light on the evolutionary basis of how societies are shaped by the individuals of which they are composed.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)