Researchers at Sheffield University have discovered that observing a colony of bees can better understand the basic mechanisms of human behavior, according to data published in the Scientific Report.
The scientists studied a theoretical model of how bees decide whether to build a hive and treat the colony as a unique superorganism that exhibits a coordinated response to external stimuli similar to the human brain.
The study concluded that the way bees are “talking to each other and making decisions” is comparable to how many separate neurons in the brain interact with each other. Previous research has shown that the brain of humans and other animals follows the so-called psychophysical laws. Individual brain neurons, however, do not obey these laws, although it does the whole brain.
Similarly, the researchers observed that even if individual bees do not obey psychophysical laws, the colony’s superorganism does.
The central finding is that super-organisms may obey the same laws as the human brain and this is important because it means that the mechanisms that produce such psychophysical laws exist not only in the brain, as researchers have previously believed.
This finding enables scientists to understand the basic principles that produce such laws by studying superorganisms such as bee echoes, which is much simpler than real-time observation of brain neurons, when a decision is made, for example. The study will also help to better understand and explore brain laws, such as Pieron’s Law, Hicks’s Law, and Weber’s Law.
Pieron’s law considers that the brain is faster in making decisions between two high-quality choices. The brain is slower when the two options are of poor quality. When they noticed the bee colony, the researchers noticed that it was quicker to make a decision between two high-quality cells for buildup.
Similarly, Hick’s law argues that the brain is slower in making decisions when the number of options is increased. In the present study it was found that honeybee was slower in making a decision when indeed had many point options to make their hive.
Weber’s law argues that the brain can choose the best quality option when there are minimal qualitative differences between the options. Indeed, in this particular beehive study model, a linear relationship was observed between minimal qualitative differentiation between hive spots and average quality.
“The study is impressive because it shows that a colony of bees obeys the same laws as the human brain when it comes to making decisions. It also reinforces the theory that honeybees are almost similar to integrated organisms and are composed of a large number of fully developed and autonomous units that interact with each other to produce a collective response, “said Dr Andreagiovani Reina, a researcher at the Computer Science Department of University of Sheffield.