Hitchhiking: Social signals at a distance
Hitchhiking is used as a model for the experimental investigation of long range communication. Two studies were conducted to ascertain the importance of sex, eye contact, food, secondary sex characteristics, and hand gestures in hitching a ride. Eye contact was directed either at the driver or along the side of the road. The hitchhiker was either eating or not eating fruit. The secondary sex characteristics were bust size in females and beard growth in males. Either a traditional thumb-up or a palm-up, flexed-fingers begging gesture was utilized. The recorded data include the number of cars passing the hitchhiker, the number of motorists offering rides, their passengers, and the types of vehicles they were driving. The findings suggest that the effective signals in hitching a ride are those that maximize interest and safety and minimize danger. The hitchhiking model was discussed in terms of hominid sociability and the dependence of individual survival upon group cohesion and cooperation.
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