Simulating the Real Origins of Communication

Richard A. Blythe, Thomas C. Scott-Phillips*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

How communication systems emerge is a topic of relevance to several academic disciplines. Numerous existing models, both mathematical and computational, study this emergence. However, with few exceptions, these models all build some form of communication into their initial specification. Consequently, what these models study is how communication systems transition from one form to another, and not how communication itself emerges in the first place. Here we present a new computational model of the emergence of communication which, unlike previous models, does not pre-specify the existence of communication. We conduct two experiments using this model, in order to derive general statements about how communication systems emerge. The two main routes to communication that we identify correspond with findings from the empirical literature on the evolution of animal signals. We use this finding to explain when and why we should expect communication to emerge in nature. We also compare our model to experimental research on the origins of human communication systems, and hence show that humans are an important exception to the general trends we observe. We argue that this is because humans, and probably only humans, are able to 'signal signalhood', i.e. to express communicative intentions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113636
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2014

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