Inferring influence and leadership in moving animal groups

Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin, Danai Papageorgiou, Margaret C. Crofoot, Damien Farine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Collective decision-making is a daily occurrence in the lives of many group-living animals, and can have critical consequences for the fitness of individuals. Understanding how decisions are reached, including who has influence and the mechanisms by which information and preferences are integrated, has posed a fundamental challenge. Here, we provide a methodological framework for studying influence and leadership in groups. We propose that individuals have influence if their actions result in some behavioural change among their group-mates, and are leaders if they consistently influence others. We highlight three components of influence (influence instances, total influence and consistency of influence), which can be assessed at two levels (individual-to-individual and individual-to-group). We then review different methods, ranging from individual positioning within groups to information-theoretic approaches, by which influence has been operationally defined in empirical studies, as well as how such observations can be aggregated to give insight into the underlying decision-making process. We focus on the domain of collective movement, with a particular emphasis on methods that have recently been, or are being, developed to take advantage of simultaneous tracking data. We aim to provide a resource bringing together methodological tools currently available for studying leadership in moving animal groups, as well as to discuss the limitations of current methodologies and suggest productive avenues for future research. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Collective movement ecology’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Inferring influence and leadership in moving animal groups'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this