Wild dogs and decisions

Pack rules: These wild dogs make group decisions and vote with their noses.

A new study has found that African wild dogs make group decisions by sneezing. Ten or more sneezes and they will stop lazing around and go hunting. Are animals the decision making champions?

What’s happening

Scientists from Australia, America and Swansea in Wales, studied packs of wild dogs in South Africa. They were interested in how animals make group decisions. They recorded the first ever examples of animals reaching a group quorum by sneezing.

Is the dogs’ decision-making process better than that of humans?

Find out more

Wild dogs are not the only animals which make group decisions. From meerkats to monkeys, social animals have different ways to signal that the group needs to get on the move. Of all the social animals, these wild dogs are the first to vote by sneezing.

Humans also make group decisions. Many big and powerful countries around the world make group decisions by counting not the people’s sneezes, but their votes. When everyone in society gets a say in the decisions affecting them it means there is democracy. The snap election, the EU referendum and the American election are all examples of democracy in action.

Look at the outcomes from these recent votes. Many people are now asking one big question; do we have the best decision making process?

Some say…

“No!” say some. Humans use their intuition far too often. It is completely flawed. Our brains are too emotional, we act on false information and make bad decisions. Animals have a far simpler decision making processes about clearer, survival-based questions. Millions of years of evolution and we still have not found a way to make good decisions.

Others think…

“Humans are still the king of the jungle!” say others. No other animal can communicate or use technology like we do. It is amazing that these wild dogs can make group decisions but these are about pure survival. Since ancient Greek and Roman civilisations, human beings have shown they are capable of making group decisions in a way which can involve thousands of citizens.

You Decide

  1. Are animals better at making decisions than humans?

Activities

  1. Do we need language to make decisions? For this activity you will need access to a large classroom or gym hall. Split the class into two groups. One group can talk to one another freely, the other must work in silence. Play a regular game of catch the flag. Swap the team rules for each group. Follow up questions could be: When was it more difficult to make a group decision? Why?

Some People Say...

“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Rudyard Kipling, The Law for the Wolves.

What do you think?

Word Watch

Quorum
The minimum number of members of a group needed when a decision is made to make that decision valid.
Social animals
Creatures which interact with other members of its species. Animals’ chances of survival can depend on being part of a group and how that group works together, or cooperates.
Democracy
Decision-making process in which everyone has a say in decisions or choosing a government.
Intuition
Understanding or acting on something without thinking deeply, instinctively, without consciously reasoning.

Subjects

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