Cheap talk when interests conflict

Joan B. Silk, Elizabeth Kaldor, Robert Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Most evolutionary analyses of animal communication suggest that low-cost signals can evolve only when both the signaller and the recipient rank outcomes in the same order. When there is a conflict of interest between sender and receiver, honest signals must be costly. However, recent work suggests that low-cost signals can be evolutionarily stable, even when the sender and the receiver rank outcomes in different orders, as long as the interest in achieving coordination is sufficiently great. In this paper, we extend this body of work by analysing a game theory model that shows that low-cost signals can evolve when there are conflicts of interest and no interest in coordination, as long as individuals interact repeatedly. We also present an empirical example indicating that female rhesus macaques, Macaca mulatta, use honest, low-cost, vocal signals to facilitate interactions when conflicts of interest exist. (C) 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-432
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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