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Department or Administrative Unit

Biological Sciences

Publication Date



Collective behavior has recently attracted a great deal of interest in both natural and social sciences. While the role of leadership has been closely scrutinized, the rules used by joiners in collective decision making have received far less attention. Two main hypotheses have been proposed concerning these rules: mimetism and quorum. Mimetism predicts that individuals are increasingly likely to join collective behavior as the number of participants increases. It can be further divided into selective mimetism, where relationships among the participants affect the process, and anonymous mimetism, where no such effect exists. Quorum predicts that a collective behavior occurs when the number of participants reaches a threshold. To probe into which rule is used in collective decision making, we conducted a study on the joining process in a group of free-ranging Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana) in Huangshan, China using a combination of all-occurrence and focal animal sampling methods. Our results show that the earlier individuals joined movements, the more central a role they occupied among the joining network. We also found that when less than three adults participated in the first five minutes of the joining process, no entire group movement occurred subsequently. When the number of these early joiners ranged from three to six, selective mimetism was used. This means higher rank or closer social affiliation of early joiners could be among the factors of deciding whether to participate in movements by group members. When the number of early joiners reached or exceeded seven, which was the simple majority of the group studied, entire group movement always occurred, meaning that the quorum rule was used. Putting together, Macaca thibetana used a combination of selective mimetism and quorum, and early joiners played a key role in deciding which rule should be used.


This article was originally published Open Access in PLoS One. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.


PLoS One


Public Domain