Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Swarm IntelligenceFrom Natural to Artificial Systems$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Eric Bonabeau, Marco Dorigo, and Guy Theraulaz

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780195131581

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195131581.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 October 2021

Division of Labor and Task Allocation

Division of Labor and Task Allocation

(p.109) Chapter 3 Division of Labor and Task Allocation
Swarm Intelligence

Eric Bonabeau

Marco Dorigo

Guy Theraulaz

Oxford University Press

Many species of social insects have a division of labor. The resilience of task allocation exhibited at the colony level is connected to the elasticity of individual workers. The behavioral repertoire of workers can be stretched back and forth in response to perturbations. A model based on response thresholds connects individual-level plasticity with colony-level resiliency and can account for some important experimental results. Response thresholds refer to likelihood of reacting to task-associated stimuli. Low-threshold individuals perform tasks at a lower level of stimulus than high-threshold individuals. An extension of this model includes a simple form of learning. Within individual workers, performing a given task induces a decrease of the corresponding threshold, and not performing the task induces an increase of the threshold. This double reinforcement process leads to the emergence of specialized workers, that is, workers that are more responsive to stimuli associated with particular task requirements, from a group of initially identical individuals. The fixed response threshold model can be used to allocate tasks in a multiagent system, in a way that is similar to market-based models, where agents bid to get resources or perform tasks. The response threshold model with learning can be used to generate differentiation in task performance in a multiagent system composed of initially identical entities. Task allocation in this case is emergent and more robust with respect to perturbations of the system than when response thresholds are fixed. An example application to distributed mail retrieval is presented. In social insects, different activities are often performed simultaneously by specialized individuals. This phenomenon is called division of labor [253, 272]. Simultaneous task performance by specialized workers is believed to be more efficient than sequential task performance by unspecialized workers [188, 253]. Parallelism avoids task switching, which costs energy and time. Specialization allows greater efficiency of individuals in task performance because they “know” the task or are better equipped for it. All social insects exhibit reproductive division of labor: only a small fraction of the colony, often limited to a single individual, reproduces.

Keywords:   Ectatomma ruidum, Lasius niger, Pheidole, division of labor, elasticity, fixed-threshold model, individual variability, learning, plasticity, resilience

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .