Artificial Life VI

A Continuous Evolutionary Simulation Model of the Attainability of Honest Signalling Equilibria

Seth Bullock
Centre for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, GERMANY ers/sethb/


A particular game-theoretic model (Grafen, 1990) of the evolutionary stability of honest signalling, which attempts a formal proof of the validity of Zahavi's (1975, 1977) handicap principle, is generalised and rendered as an evolutionary simulation model. In addition to supporting new theoretical results, this allows the effects of differing initial conditions on the attainability of signalling equilibria to be explored. Furthermore, it allows an examination of the manner in which the character of equilibrium signalling behaviour varies with the model's parameters. It is demonstrated that (i) non-handicap signalling equilibria exist, (ii) honest signalling equilibria need not involve extravagant signals, and (iii) the basins of attraction for such equilibria are, however, relatively small. General conditions for the existence of honest signalling equilibria (which replace those offered by Zahavi) are provided, and it is demonstrated that previous theoretical results are easily accommodated by these general conditions. It is concluded that the supposed generality of the handicap principle, and the coherence of its terminology, are both suspect.

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