Social decision-making driven by artistic explore–exploit tension

Kayhan Özcimder, Biswadip Dey, Alessio Franci, Rebecca Lazier, Daniel Trueman, Naomi Ehrich Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We studied social decision-making in the rule-based improvisational dance There Might Be Others, where dancers make in-the-moment compositional choices. Rehearsals provided a natural test-bed with communication restricted to non-verbal cues. We observed a key artistic explore–exploit tension in which the dancers switched between exploitation of existing artistic opportunities and riskier exploration of new ones. We investigated how the rules influenced the dynamics using rehearsals together with a model generalized from evolutionary dynamics. We tuned the rules to heighten the tension and modelled nonlinear fitness and feedback dynamics for mutation rate to capture the observed temporal phasing of the dancers' exploration-versus-exploitation. Using bifurcation analysis, we identified key controls of the tension and showed how they could shape the decision-making dynamics of the model much like turning a ‘dial’ in the instructions to the dancers could shape the dance. The investigation became an integral part of the development of the dance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-81
Number of pages27
JournalInterdisciplinary Science Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Dance improvisation
  • collective behaviour
  • communication through movement
  • explore–exploit decision-making
  • pitchfork bifurcation
  • replicator-mutator and co-evolutionary dynamics


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