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Content in Simple Signalling Systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Nicholas James Shea, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Rosa Cao

Original languageEnglish
JournalBRITISH JOURNAL FOR THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Mar 2016

Documents

  • Shea et al Cont Sig Sys - Author_Accepted_for_PURE

    Shea_et_al_Cont_Sig_Sys_Author_Accepted_for_PURE.pdf, 312 KB, application/pdf

    16/03/2018

    Accepted author manuscript

    Embargo is for 24 months from publication. The input method does not allow that option. The embargo end date should be updated once the publication date is known.

King's Authors

Abstract

Our understanding of communication and its evolution has advanced significantly through the study of simple models of interacting senders and receivers of signals. Many theorists have thought that the resources of mathematical information theory are all that is needed to capture the meaning or content that is being communicated in these systems. However, the way theorists routinely talk about the models implicitly draws on a conception of content that is richer than bare informational content, especially in contexts where false content is important. This paper shows that this concept can be made precise by defining a notion of functional content that captures the degree to which different states of the world are involved in stabilizing senders’ and receivers’ use of a signal at equilibrium. A series of case studies is used to contrast functional content with informational content, and to illustrate the explanatory role and limitations of this definition of functional content.

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