How Ant Foraging Can Explain Herding & Epidemics

Abstract Via Alan Kirman

This paper offers an explanation of behavior that puzzled entomologists and economists. Ants, faced with two identical food sources, were observed to concentrate more on one of these but, after a period, they would turn their attention to the other. The same phenomenon has been observed in humans choosing between restaurants. After discussing the nature of foraging and recruitment behavior in ants, a simple model of stochastic recruitment is suggested. This explains the “herding” and “epidemics” described in the literature on financial markets as corresponding to the equilibrium distribution of a stochastic process rather than to switching between multiple equilibria.

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