Individual versus collective cognition in social insects

Ofer Feinerman, Amos Korman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The concerted responses of eusocial insects to environmental stimuli are often referred to as collective cognition at the level of the colony. To achieve collective cognition, a group can draw on two different sources: Individual cognition and the connectivity between individuals. Computation in neural networks, for example, is attributed more to sophisticated communication schemes than to the complexity of individual neurons. The case of social insects, however, can be expected to differ. This is because individual insects are cognitively capable units that are often able to process information that is directly relevant at the level of the colony. Furthermore, involved communication patterns seem difficult to implement in a group of insects as they lack a clear network structure. This review discusses links between the cognition of an individual insect and that of the colony. We provide examples for collective cognition whose sources span the full spectrum between amplification of individual insect cognition and emergent group-level processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd / Journal of Experimental Biology.


  • Communication patterns
  • Emergence
  • Group-level processes
  • Insect colony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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