Phase transitions and asymmetry between signal comprehension and production in biological communication
Journal article, Peer reviewed
MetadataVis full innførsel
We introduce a model for collective information acquisition from the environment, in a biological population. In this model, individuals can make noisy observations of the environment, and communicate their observation by production and comprehension of signals. As the communication noise decreases, the model shows an order-disorder transition from a disordered phase in which no consensus about the environmental state exists to an ordered phase where the population forms a consensus about the environmental state. The ordered phase itself is composed of an informed consensus, in which the correct belief about the environment prevails, and an uninformed consensus phase, in which consensus on a random belief about the environmental state is formed. The probability of reaching informed consensus increases with increasing the observation probability. This phenomenology implies that a maximum noise level, and a minimum observation probability are necessary for informed consensus in a communicating population. Furthermore, we show that the fraction of observant individuals needed for the group to reach informed consensus decreases with increasing population size. This results from a shift in the uninformed-informed transition to smaller observation probabilities by increasing population size. Importantly, we also find that an amount of noise in signal production deteriorates the information flow and the inference capability, more than the same amount of noise in comprehension. This finding implies that there is higher selection pressure to reduce noise in production of signals compared to comprehension. Regarding this asymmetry, we propose an experimental design to separately measure comprehension and production noise in a given population and test the predicted asymmetry.