Stephen Pratt studies the emergence of complex social behavior in leaderless and decentralized groups, particularly social insect colonies. He and his students use experiments and mathematical models to understand the behavioral rules and communication networks that allow colonies to act as a collective intelligence.
Inspired by the analogy between individual organisms and colonial “superorganisms,” they apply many ideas from psychology to understand group cognition. Pratt also works with engineers to translate lessons from social animals to human-designed systems, and to develop innovative tools for the analysis of behavior.
- Sasaki, T., Granovskiy, B., Mann, R.P., Sumpter, D.J.T. and Pratt, S.C. (2013) Collective decision-making by ant colonies: A crowd is wise for hard tasks but not for easy ones. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in press.
- Shaffer, Z., Sasaki, T. and Pratt, S.C. (2013) Linear recruitment leads to allocation and flexibility in collective foraging by ants. Animal Behaviour, in press.
- Kumar, G.P., Buffin, A., Pavlic, T.P., Pratt, S.C. and Berman, S.M. (2013) A stochastic hybrid system model of collective transport in the desert ant Aphaenogaster cockerelli. Hybrid Systems: Computation and Control, HSCC’13, pp. 119-124.
- Bowens, S., Glatt, D. and Pratt, S.C. (2013) Visual navigation during colony emigration by the ant Temnothorax rugatulus. PLoS ONE 8: e64367.
- Sasaki, T. and Pratt, S.C. (2012) Groups have a larger cognitive capacity than individuals. Current Biology 22: R827-R829.
Unique marking of Temnothorax ants helps to connect individual behavior with colony-level consequences. Photo: Stephen Pratt
A Temnothorax rugatulus ant drinks dyed sugar water during an experiment on collective foraging. Photo: Zack Shaffer
A team of Novomessor cockerelli ants cooperate to carry a large food item to their nest. Photo: Stephen Pratt
A team of Aphaenogaster cockerelli ants cooperate to carry an artificial load to their nest.