Wild animals suppress the spread of socially transmitted misinformation. Journal Article uri icon



  • Understanding the mechanisms by which information and misinformation spread through groups of individual actors is essential to the prediction of phenomena ranging from coordinated group behaviors to misinformation epidemics. Transmission of information through groups depends on the rules that individuals use to transform the perceived actions of others into their own behaviors. Because it is often not possible to directly infer decision-making strategies in situ, most studies of behavioral spread assume that individuals make decisions by pooling or averaging the actions or behavioral states of neighbors. However, whether individuals may instead adopt more sophisticated strategies that exploit socially transmitted information, while remaining robust to misinformation, is unknown. Here, we study the relationship between individual decision-making and misinformation spread in groups of wild coral reef fish, where misinformation occurs in the form of false alarms that can spread contagiously through groups. Using automated visual field reconstruction of wild animals, we infer the precise sequences of socially transmitted visual stimuli perceived by individuals during decision-making. Our analysis reveals a feature of decision-making essential for controlling misinformation spread: dynamic adjustments in sensitivity to socially transmitted cues. This form of dynamic gain control can be achieved by a simple and biologically widespread decision-making circuit, and it renders individual behavior robust to natural fluctuations in misinformation exposure.

publication date

  • April 4, 2023

has restriction

  • hybrid

Date in CU Experts

  • August 30, 2023 2:12 AM

Full Author List

  • Fahimipour AK; Gil MA; Celis MR; Hein GF; Martin BT; Hein AM

author count

  • 6

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

Additional Document Info

start page

  • e2215428120


  • 120


  • 14