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Philosopher uses game theory to understand how words, actions acquire meaning
Date:7/21/2014

biological organization, Wagner said. For example, bacteria such as those in the genus Pseudomonas communicate through chemical signals to attack the human immune system. Monkeys use vocalization to talk with each other. A peacock uses the size of his tail to signal his attractiveness to a female. People use gestures and language to communicate.

While these types of models have existed since the 1970s, Wagner and collaborators studied the dynamics of signaling games. The researchers incorporated evolution and individual learning to overturn other preconceived notions from previous models.

Through these models, the researchers start with a signaling game in which the sender's message does not have any prebuilt meaning. As the signaling system evolves, the sender's message may reflect the state of the world and the receiver may respond in a way that is appropriate for the state of the world.

"Through this process an arbitrary signal with no prebuilt meaning has come to mean something," Wagner said. "It appears that the meaning of a word has almost magically arisen out of this natural process."

If the researchers can show that this process occurs across a wide variety of models, then they may be able to explain how a word or action gains meaning.

"I think it's important for us to think carefully about features of our lives that we take for granted," Wagner said. "This research is one way for us to think carefully about why it is that words have meaning and how it is that words can acquire meaning through a natural process."


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Contact: Elliott Wagner
eowagner@k-state.edu
785-532-0420
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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