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. 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.

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.