Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 279–286 | Cite as

The rise and fall of handicap principle: a commentary on the “Modelling and the fall and rise of the handicap principle”



The honesty of animal communication is in the spot lights in the last 30 years. During most of this time the field was dominated by one explanation: Zahavi’s handicap principle (Zahavi, J Theor Biol 67:603–605, 1975; Grafen, J Theor Biol 144:517–546, 1990). Grose (Biol Philos 2011) embarks to explain both the success of the theory and the empirical difficulties that exist despite this success. While I wholeheartedly agree with the criticism offered by Grose and with almost all the claims he makes, the treatment of the issue is far from complete and it still leaves much to be explained. Accordingly, my commentary consist of six sections: in the first section I clear up some technical issues left unexposed, most importantly the role of strategic cost in handicap signalling; in the second section I relate this to empirical testing; in the next section I comment on the historical development of the handicap principle; in the fourth section I review the biological models that came up with conclusions that contradict the handicap principle; in the fifth section I discuss the reasons behind the success of the handicap theory; finally, in the last section I discuss the application of the handicap theory to anthropology and human sciences.


Honest signalling Handicap principle Strategic cost 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HAS-ELTE Research Group for Theoretical Biology and Ecology, Department of Plant Taxonomy and EcologyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary

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