Threshold models in which an individual’s response to a particular state of the world depends on whether an associated measured value exceeds a given threshold are common in a variety of social learning and collective decision-making scenarios in both natural and artificial systems. If thresholds are heterogeneous across a population of agents, then graded population level responses can emerge in a context in which individual responses are discrete and limited. In this article, I propose a threshold-based model for social learning of shared quality categories. This is then combined with the voting model of fuzzy categories to allow individuals to learn membership functions from their peers, which can then be used for decision-making, including ranking a set of available options. I use agent-based simulation experiments to investigate variants of this model and compare them to an individual learning benchmark when applied to the ranking problem. These results show that a threshold-based approach combined with category-based voting across a social network provides an effective social mechanism for ranking that exploits emergent vagueness.

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