Individual variations lead to universal and cross-species patterns of social behavior

Sang Hyun Choi, Vikyath D. Rao, Tim Gernat, Adam R. Hamilton, Gene E. Robinson, Nigel Goldenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The duration of interaction events in a society is a fundamental measure of its collective nature and potentially reflects variability in individual behavior. Here we performed a high-throughput measurement of trophallaxis and face-to-face event durations experienced by a colony of honeybees over their entire lifetimes. The interaction time distribution is heavy-tailed, as previously reported for human face-to-face interactions. We developed a theory of pair interactions that takes into account individual variability and predicts the scaling behavior for both bee and extant human datasets. The individual variability of worker honeybees was nonzero but less than that of humans, possibly reflecting their greater genetic relatedness. Our work shows how individual differences can lead to universal patterns of behavior that transcend species and specific mechanisms for social interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31754-31759
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 15 2020


  • Heavy-Tailed distribution
  • Individuality
  • Social network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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