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Social information use is a process across time, space, and ecology, reaching heterospecifics
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Animal Ecology.
2007 (English)In: Ecology, ISSN 0012-9658, E-ISSN 1939-9170, Vol. 88, no 7, 1622-1633 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Decision making can be facilitated by observing other individuals faced with the same or similar problem, and recent research suggests that this social information use is a widespread phenomenon. Implications of this are diverse and profound: for example, social information use may trigger cultural evolution, affect distribution and dispersal of populations, and involve intriguing cognitive traits. We emphasize here that social information use is a process consisting of the scenes of(1) event, (2) observation, (3) decision, and (4) consequence, where the initial event is a scene in such a process of another individual. This helps to construct a sound conceptual framework for measuring and studying social information use. Importantly, the potential value of social information is affected by the distance in time, space, and ecology between the initial observation and eventual consequence of a decision. Because negative interactions between individuals (such as direct and apparent competition) also depend on the distance between individuals along these dimensions, the potential value of information and the negative interactions may form a trade-off situation. Optimal solutions to this trade-off can result in adaptively extended social information use, where using information gathered some time ago, some distance away, and from ecologically different individuals is preferred. Conceivably, using information gathered from a heterospecific individual might often be optimal. Many recent studies demonstrate that social information use does occur between species, and the first review of published cases is provided here. Such interaction between species, especially in habitat selection, has important consequences for community ecology and conservation. Adaptively extended social information use may also be an important evolutionary force in guild formation. Complex coevolutionary patterns may result depending on the effect of information use on the provider of information.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 88, no 7, 1622-1633 p.
Keyword [en]
Social learning, Public information, Attraction, Habitat selection, Autocorrelation, Ecology
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-13334DOI: 10.1890/06-1757.1ISI: 000247730800002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-13334DiVA: diva2:41104
Available from: 2008-01-22 Created: 2008-01-22 Last updated: 2011-01-31Bibliographically approved

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