How to create shared symbols

Fay, N., Walker, B., Swoboda, N. and Garrod, S. (2018) How to create shared symbols. Cognitive Science, 42(S1), pp. 241-269. (doi:10.1111/cogs.12600) (PMID:29457653)

157897.pdf - Accepted Version



Human cognition and behavior are dominated by symbol use. This paper examines the social learning strategies that give rise to symbolic communication. Experiment 1 contrasts an individual-level account, based on observational learning and cognitive bias, with an inter-individual account, based on social coordinative learning. Participants played a referential communication game in which they tried to communicate a range of recurring meanings to a partner by drawing, but without using their conventional language. Individual-level learning, via observation and cognitive bias, was sufficient to produce signs that became increasingly effective, efficient, and shared over games. However, breaking a referential precedent eliminated these benefits. The most effective, most efficient, and most shared signs arose when participants could directly interact with their partner, indicating that social coordinative learning is important to the creation of shared symbols. Experiment 2 investigated the contribution of two distinct aspects of social interaction: behavior alignment and concurrent partner feedback. Each played a complementary role in the creation of shared symbols: Behavior alignment primarily drove communication effectiveness, and partner feedback primarily drove the efficiency of the evolved signs. In conclusion, inter-individual social coordinative learning is important to the evolution of effective, efficient, and shared symbols.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:N. F. and S. G. acknowledge support by an ARC Discovery grant (no. DP120104237).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fay, Dr Nicolas and Garrod, Professor Simon
Authors: Fay, N., Walker, B., Swoboda, N., and Garrod, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Cognitive Science
ISSN (Online):1551-6709
Published Online:19 February 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
First Published:First published in Cognitive Science 42(S1):241-269
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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