Collective Behavior

Robert L. Goldstone, Todd M. Gureckis

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


The resurgence of interest in collective behavior is in large part due to tools recently made available for conducting laboratory experiments on groups, statistical methods for analyzing large data sets reflecting social interactions, the rapid growth of a diverse variety of online self-organized collectives, and computational modeling methods for understanding both universal and scenario-specific social patterns. We consider case studies of collective behavior along four attributes: the primary motivation of individuals within the group, kinds of interactions among individuals, typical dynamics that result from these interactions, and characteristic outcomes at the group level. With this framework, we compare the collective patterns of noninteracting decision makers, bee swarms, groups forming paths in physical and abstract spaces, sports teams, cooperation and competition for resource usage, and the spread and extension of innovations in an online community. Some critical issues surrounding collective behavior are then reviewed, including the questions of "Does group behavior always reduce to individual behavior?""Is 'group cognition' possible?" and "What is the value of formal modeling for understanding group behavior?"

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-438
Number of pages27
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Collective behavior
  • Computational models
  • Group psychology
  • Innovation diffusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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