Swarm Cognition: an Interdisciplinary approach to the study of Self-organising Biological Collectives

Basic elements of cognition have been identified in the behaviour displayed by animal collectives, ranging from honeybee swarms to human societies. For example, an insect swarm is often considered a “super-organism” that appears to exhibit cognitive behaviour as a result of the interactions among the individual insects and between the insects and the environment. Progress in disciplines such as neurosciences, cognitive psychology, social ethology and swarm intelligence has allowed researchers to recognise and model the distributed basis of cognition and to draw parallels between the behaviour of social insects and brain dynamics. In this paper, we discuss the theoretical premises and the biological basis of Swarm Cognition, a novel approach to the study of cognition as a distributed self-organising  phenomenon, and we point to novel fascinating directions for future work. The discussions we have presented depict Swarm Cognition as an intriguing framework for future investigation on cognitive systems. We started from the observation that cognitive processes can be supported by distributed systems, be they composed of a multitude of insects or a population of neurons. In this respect, self-organisation is a key process, which leads the system to adaptively react to external disturbances displaying a coherent response as a result of a sophisticated network of interactions among the individual units of the system. Swarm Cognition, therefore, promotes the study of cognition as an emergent collective phenomenon.

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Read also: The biological principles of swarm intelligence

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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