Embodied Decision-Making in Baboon Bands

face of a prisoner

A baboon band’s decision on its directional of travel occurs through bodily interactions distributed across the band. No one baboon is responsible for deciding the direction of travel. Decision-making occurs through distributed bodily interactions, including vocalizations, pacing, staring, and starting in a direction:

a male moves along the vector to the periphery and sits facing away from the group. This is closely watched by the other males who may then ‘notify’ an initiator by approaching, performing a hindquarter presentation and then moving off quickly along their own favoured route. Other males, with their associated females and offspring, then begin to aggregate behind one or other of the initiators so that, over time, the majority come to be oriented in a particular direction, at which point the band departs. …the decision to take a particular travel route cannot be attributed to any one individual, but is distributed across the band as a whole.^

Among primates, gorillas have a much more personal style of leadership for choosing the direction of travel.^ While some baboons might aspire to be like gorillas, they are unlikely to achieve that aspiration.

Baboon decision-making is not the same as academic fads and fashions. Academic fads and fashions typically emerge from particular academics becoming socially regarded as superstars.^ Baboon bands don’t have superstars. Baboons’ collective decision making involves more subtle and ongoing interactions among the band. Baboon-type interaction among legal academics suppresses expressing concern about highly disproportionate imprisonment of men. Such interaction also suppresses expressing concern about the frequent, mundane evocation of emergency law domestically, the poor performance of law review in screening out socially damaging, grotesquely false claims, and the evisceration of normal constitutional rights and due process of law in the common use of restraining orders.

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