Self-improvement for team players: the effects of individual effort on aggregated group information

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By putting effort into behaviours like foraging or scanning for predators, an animal can improve the correctness of its personal information about the environment. For animals living in groups, the individual can gain further information if it is able to assess public information about the environment from other group members. Earlier work has shown that consensus group decisions based upon the public information available within the group are more likely to be correct than decisions based upon personal information alone, given that each individual in a group has a fixed probability of being correct. This study develops a model where group members are able to improve their personal likelihood of making a correct decision by conducting some level of (costly) effort. I demonstrate that there is an evolutionarily stable level of effort for all the individuals within the group, and the effort made by an individual should decrease with increasing group size. The relevance of these results to social decision making is discussed: in particular, these results are similar to standard theoretical predictions about the amount of vigilance shown by individuals decreasing with increasing group size. However, this model suggests that these results could come about where individuals are coordinating their effort within the group (unlike standard models, which assume that all individual effort is independent of the actions of others). This ties in with experimental findings where individuals have been shown to monitor the efforts of others.
Translated title of the contributionSelf-improvement for team-players: the effects of individual effort on aggregated group information
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11705
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2010

Bibliographical note

Rose publication type: Journal article

Terms of use: (c) 2010 Sean A. Rands. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • behavioural ecology
  • evolutionary ecology


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