The Death of Costly Signalling?
AbstractHow do organisms communicate honestly despite conflicts of interest? Over the past quarter-century, the "costly signalling" hypothesis -- that signal honesty can be ensured by appropriate signal cost -- has emerged as the dominant explanation for this puzzle. First proposed by Zahavi [1, 2] and formalized by Grafen  and Godfray , this hypothesis has led to a proliferation of theoretical models [5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] and empirical tests (reviewed in [15, 16, 17, 18]). Unfortunately, these empirical studies suggest that honest signalling is not always accompanied by the predicted signal costs (reviewed in ), and some signalling systems (including human language) appear not to require signal cost at all. In response to these difficulties, researchers have attempted to identify special mechanisms by which signalling can be honest even with low or zero signal cost (also reviewed in ). Here, we show that no special mechanism is necessary. While the cost of out-of-equilibrium signals plays an important role in stabilizing honest signalling, the signals actually employed at equilibrium need not be costly. Therefore, even unrelated individuals with conflicting interests can communicate honestly using cost-free or very cheap signals; contrary to the "handicap principle," waste is not required to ensure honest signals. We illustrate this by constructing examples of cost-free signalling equilibria for the two paradigmatic signalling games of Grafen  and Godfray . Our findings (1) significantly revise previous theoretical conclusions regarding the requirement for signal cost in honest signalling systems, (2) explain the discrepancy between empirical signalling studies and theoretical predictions, (3) suggest why some animal signals use cost to ensure honesty while others do not, and (4) provide ways in which signalling theory can be used to address the "problem of deception" in the evolution of human language.
Download InfoTo our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Santa Fe Institute in its series Working Papers with number 00-12-074.
Date of creation: Dec 2000
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Web page: http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/publications/working-papers.html
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Rubinstein, A., 1998.
"Economics and Language,"
14-98, Tel Aviv.
- Ariel Rubinstein, 2000. "Economics and Language," Online economics textbooks, SUNY-Oswego, Department of Economics, number lang1, Spring.
- Rubinstein,Ariel, 2000. "Economics and Language," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521593069.
- Rubinstein,Ariel, 2000. "Economics and Language," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521789905.
- Carl T. Bergstrom & Rustom Antia & Szabolcs Sz‡mad— & Michael Lachmann, 2001. "The Peacock, the Sparrow, and the Evolution of Human Language," Working Papers 01-05-027, Santa Fe Institute.
- Jack Hirshleifer, 2002. "The Truthful Signalling Hypothesis An Economic Approach," UCLA Economics Working Papers 825, UCLA Department of Economics.
- Kjell Hausken & Jack Hirshleifer, 2003. "The Truthful Signalling Hypothesis: An Economic Approach," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000808, David K. Levine.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Thomas Krichel).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.