Evolutionarily Stable Communication and Pragmatics

  • Thomas C. Scott-Phillips
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6207)


In the past 20 or so years there has been much research interest in the evolution of cooperation in humans (Axelrod, 1995; Boyd & Richerson, 1992; Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003; Milinski et al., 2002; West et al., 2006). The foundational problem addressed by this work is how cooperation can remain evolutionarily stable when individuals have incentives to freeride; that is, to take but not contribute from the public good (Hardin, 1968). There is an analogous problem associated with the evolution of communication: how can signalling remain evolutionarily stable when individuals have incentives to be dishonest? This gametheoretic question is the defining problem of animal signalling theory (Maynard Smith & Harper, 2003; Searcy & Nowicki, 2007). The main goals of this chapter are to explore the various possible solutions to this problem and to ask which most likely applies to human communication. In addition to this it will also, using insights from pragmatics, provide some insight as to the nature of the problem and hence clarify some of the relevant issues.


Signal Form Evolutionary Stability Theoretical Biology Stable Communication Repeated Interaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas C. Scott-Phillips
    • 1
  1. 1.Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit School of Psychology, Philosophy and Language SciencesUniversity of EdinburghUK

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