Motion-guided attention promotes adaptive communications during social navigation
Animals are capable of enhanced decision making through cooperation, whereby accurate decisions can occur quickly through decentralized consensus. These interactions often depend upon reliable social cues, which can result in highly coordinated activities in uncertain environments. Yet information within a crowd may be lost in translation, generating confusion and enhancing individual risk. As quantitative data detailing animal social interactions accumulate, the mechanisms enabling individuals to rapidly and accurately process competing social cues remain unresolved. Here, we model how motion-guided attention influences the exchange of visual information during social navigation. We also compare the performance of this mechanism to the hypothesis that robust social coordination requires individuals to numerically limit their attention to a set of n-nearest neighbours. While we find that such numerically limited attention does not generate robust social navigation across ecological contexts, several notable qualities arise from selective attention to motion cues. First, individuals can instantly become a local information hub when startled into action, without requiring changes in neighbour attention level. Second, individuals can circumvent speed–accuracy trade-offs by tuning their motion thresholds. In turn, these properties enable groups to collectively dampen or amplify social information. Lastly, the minority required to sway a group's short-term directional decisions can change substantially with social context. Our findings suggest that motion-guided attention is a fundamental and efficient mechanism underlying collaborative decision making during social navigation.