Iain Couzin and his team discovered that there exist fundamental geometrical principles that apply across scales of biological organization, from the scale of neural interactions, to individual and collective decision-making. Specifically, their work revealed that animals’ brains cope with environmental complexity by spontaneously reducing the many options they face in the world into a series of sequential binary decisions, a response that facilitates highly effective decision-making and is robust both to the number of options available and to ecological context. These principles, hitherto overlooked, apply across scales of biological organization, from individual to collective decision-making.
Iain Couzin is Director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and of the Excellence Cluster “Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour” at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously he was Full Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and prior to that a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, and Junior Research Fellow in the Sciences at Balliol College, Oxford. His work aims to reveal the fundamental principles that underlie evolved collective behavior and he studies a wide range of biological systems, from neural collectives to insect swarms, fish schools and primate groups. In recognition of his research he has been recipient of the Searle Scholar Award in 2008, the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 2013, a Web of Science Global Highly Cited Researcher since 2018, the Lagrange Prize in 2019 and the Leibniz Prize in 2022.