The dynamics of social transmission in structured contexts

1 Postdoctoral Position

Research objectives: In this project, we aim to explore the role that heterogeneity plays within and between groups with regard to social transmission dynamics in humans and social insects. In order to understand the general mathematical principles underlying the relationship between network structure and transmission processes, we must consider diverse systems. While stark differences will exist, we expect to find important underlying principles concerning the impact of individual differences and network structures on the dynamics of social transmission. In humans, we propose the longitudinal observation of real social networks, tracking the developments of friendships and acquaintances as well as the social contagion of emotional states, beliefs, and knowledge. We will complement the observational approach with an experimental set-up that allows us to manipulate objects of transmission and individuals’ motivation to transmit them. In social insects, we will directly measure individual and group properties and the impact these have on the collective features of the group in order to examine social transmission under controlled laboratory conditions. In all cases we consider the time-varying nature of networks as well as within-group heterogeneity. While the scales of organisation and the computational capabilities of organisms differ greatly, there are nevertheless unifying principles that can be identified by considering social transmission in such diverse systems.

(Advisors: Iain Couzin and Wolfgang Gaissmaier)