Vol. 11, No. 1
Learning and the Emergence of Coordinated Communication
Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego
For the members of a population of animals to enjoy the benefit that might accrue from the exchange of information, their communicative behavior must be coordinated—most of the time that an animal sends a signal in some type of situation, others respond to the signal in a manner appropriate to the situation that inspired it. We investigate how coordinated communication could emerge among animals capable of producing and responding to simple signals, and how such coordination could be maintained, when new members of a population learn to communicate by observing the other members. We describe a learning procedure that enables an individual to achieve the maximum possible accuracy in communicating with a given population. If all new members of the population use this procedure, or one of the approximations to it we describe, the coordination of the population’s communication will steadily increase, ultimately yielding a highly coordinated system. Our results are derived mathematically from a formal model of simple communication systems, and are illustrated with computational simulations. We discuss their biological plausibility and their relevance to more complex communication systems, including human language.