The study of complex human social-behavioral systems will benefit from making use of a wide variety of different modeling techniques. Whereas there is appreciation for the potential contribution of mathematical and computational modeling approaches, nonhuman animal models have been viewed as either too trivial or too distant to provide any useful insight for the study of human systems. However, the practice of modeling in science is not about building the most truthful model so much as building the most tractable model that provides sufficient detail for testing a particular hypothesis. With that in mind, nonhuman model systems, such as socially foraging birds, social spiders, and ant colonies, can be valuable tools that complement other modeling techniques. These tabletop naturally evolved social systems potentially have more congruence to human social behavior than arbitrarily chosen rules approximating introspective experience in agent-based models. Moreover, they can be observed under high levels of control that allow for building confidence in insights gained from more abstract models. In this chapter, several examples of the rich behavior present in nonhuman social systems are presented. This chapter is meant to motivate that behavioral ecology of nonhuman social systems can enhance the search for general principles that are also present in human social systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocial-Behavioral Modeling for Complex Systems
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781119485001
ISBN (Print)9781119484967
StatePublished - Mar 29 2019


  • Human social systems
  • Nonhuman systems
  • Nutmeg mannikins
  • Recruitment dynamics
  • Social patterns
  • Social spiders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Social models from non-human systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this