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The Evolved ApprenticeHow Evolution Made Humans Unique$
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Kim Sterelny

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016797

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016797.001.0001

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Signals, Cooperation, and Learning

Signals, Cooperation, and Learning

(p.125) 6 Signals, Cooperation, and Learning
The Evolved Apprentice

Kim Sterelny

The MIT Press

This chapter takes on the task of explaining the stability of honest signals amongst agents with potentially divergent interests. The chapter identifies forms of low risk signalling and responding: many-to-many networks (where deception would be both difficult and would have unpredictable consequences); information-pooling contexts where there is no temptation to defect; cue/signal hybrids (like demonstrating a technique while using it), where an agent’s capacity to signal deceptively is constrained by the utilitarian functions of the signal; signals whose honesty is underwritten by the differential costs of honest and deceptive signals. These forms of low-risk communication are an evolutionary platform, making signalling and communication a central part of social life, thus selecting for more advanced capacities to both signal and to vet the signals of others. Dan Sperber and his colleagues have argued that metarepresentation and folk logic enable us to lower the risks of our very extensive social learning. This chapter extends and modifies that argument, while showing that these mechanisms evolve after and because low risk forms of social learning became central to ancient humans’ lives.

Keywords:   Honest signals, costly signals, hunting as a signal, deception, deceptive signals, folk logic, Sperber, reasoning and social learning

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