Toyokawa, W.（豊川航）, Kim, H-r. （金恵璘）, & Kameda, T.（亀田達也） (2014). Human Collective Intelligence under Dual Exploration-Exploitation Dilemmas. PLoS ONE, 9(4), e95789. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095789
The exploration-exploitation dilemma is a recurrent adaptive problem for humans as well as non-human animals. Given a fixed time/energy budget, every individual faces a fundamental trade-off between exploring for better resources and exploiting known resources to optimize overall performance under uncertainty. Colonies of eusocial insects are known to solve this dilemma successfully via evolved coordination mechanisms that function at the collective level. For humans and other non-eusocial species, however, this dilemma operates within individuals as well as between individuals, because group members may be motivated to take excessive advantage of others’ exploratory findings through social learning. Thus, even though social learning can reduce collective exploration costs, the emergence of disproportionate “information scroungers” may severely undermine its potential benefits. We investigated experimentally whether social learning opportunities might improve the performance of human participants working on a “multi-armed bandit” problem in groups, where they could learn about each other’s past choice behaviors. Results showed that, even though information scroungers emerged frequently in groups, social learning opportunities reduced total group exploration time while increasing harvesting from better options, and consequentially improved collective performance. Surprisingly, enriching social information by allowing participants to observe others’ evaluations of chosen options (e.g., Amazon’s 5-star rating system) in addition to choice-frequency information had a detrimental impact on performance compared to the simpler situation with only the choice-frequency information. These results indicate that humans groups can handle the fundamental “dual exploration-exploitation dilemmas” successfully, and that social learning about simple choice-frequencies can help produce collective intelligence.