Social Information Links Individual Behavior to Population and Community Dynamics

Michael A. Gil, Andrew M. Hein, Orr Spiegel, Marissa L. Baskett, Andrew Sih

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


When individual animals make decisions, they routinely use information produced intentionally or unintentionally by other individuals. Despite its prevalence and established fitness consequences, the effects of such social information on ecological dynamics remain poorly understood. Here, we synthesize results from ecology, evolutionary biology, and animal behavior to show how the use of social information can profoundly influence the dynamics of populations and communities. We combine recent theoretical and empirical results and introduce simple population models to illustrate how social information use can drive positive density-dependent growth of populations and communities (Allee effects). Furthermore, social information can shift the nature and strength of species interactions, change the outcome of competition, and potentially increase extinction risk in harvested populations and communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-548
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Allee effect
  • coexistence
  • density dependence
  • environmental change
  • facilitation
  • population dynamics
  • public information
  • social interactions
  • species interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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