Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Signal Reliability

  • Brittany A. Coppinger
  • Scott A. Benson
  • Todd M. FreebergEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2729-1



Communication occurs when one individual influences the behavior of at least one other individual through the information conveyed by its signals or cues. Whereas cues are often incidental byproducts of individual behavior or physiology that convey information, signals evolved specifically for the function of communicating (see “Communication, Signals, and Cues”; Maynard Smith and Harper 2003). A signal is reliable when it is consistently and predictably associated with either the signaler’s state or some salient aspect of the environment. In animal species, signals are generally reliable because of strong selection pressure on receivers to ignore or avoid unreliable signals or signalers – unreliable signals are therefore selected against.


Communication is often a dyadic interaction between signalers, who produce signals, and receivers, who monitor signals. For decades leading up to the 1970s, the general view of animal communication...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brittany A. Coppinger
    • 1
  • Scott A. Benson
    • 1
  • Todd M. Freeberg
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Russell Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IdahoMoscowUSA