On Building Meaning: A Biologically-Inspired Experiment on Symbol-Based Communication

Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 657)


The use of an appropriate set of empirical and theoretical constraints to guide the construction of synthetic experiments leads to a better understanding of the natural phenomena under study, and allows for a greater understanding of the experimental results. We begin this chapter with a description of a general approach for conducting experiments with artificial creatures within a synthetic ethological context. Next, we describe how this approach was used to build a computational experiment regarding the emergence of self-organized symbols. Our experiment simulated a community of artificial creatures undergoing complex intra and inter-specific interactions in which meaning evolved over time, from a tabula rasa repertoire of random alarm-calls to a specific set of optimal referential alarm-calls. To design different kinds of creatures as well as innanimate elements of the environment, we applied theoretical constraints from the Peircean philosophy of sign and empirical constraints from neuroethology. Our results suggest that the constraints chosen were both necessary and sufficient to produce symbolic communication.


Communication Meaning Semiosis Symbol process Self-organization Emergence Computer simulation. 



This work was supported by FAPESB, CNPq and AASDAP.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Exact SciencesState University of Feira de SantanaFeira de SantanaBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Computer Engineering and Industrial AutomationFEEC, State University of CampinasCampinasBrazil
  3. 3.Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal (ELS-IINN)NatalBrazil
  4. 4.Department of NeuroscienceFederal University of Rio Grande do NorteNatalBrazil
  5. 5.Research Group on Cognitive Science and SemioticsFederal University of Juiz de Fora, UFJFJuiz de ForaBrazil

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