Using software agents to investigate the interactive origins of communication systems.

Pieter de Bie, Thomas Scott-Phillips, Simon Kirby, & Bart Verheij

In contemporary research on the origins of human communication, games are used as a methodological tool (Galantucci, 2005; De Ruiter, Noordzij, Newman- Norlund, Hagoort, & Toni, 2007; Scott-Phillips, Kirby, & Ritchie, 2009). It has turned out that the ample degree of freedom allowed by the proposed games can be an impediment for the fruitful drawing of conclusions from the empirical findings: the creativity and flexibility of experimental participants leads to behavior that is hard to predict up front, allowing only post-hoc analysis (cf. Galantucci (2005)).

In the research reported here, an attempt is made to improve this situation by designing a game that can be played by a human player against a software agent. We hypothesize that this will provide an experimental setting that is sufficiently constrained for the design of experiments on the emergence of a communication system in which the test person's behavior is quantitatively measurable.

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de Bie, P., Scott-Phillips, T., Kirby, S., & Verheij, B. (2010). Using Software Agents to Investigate the Interactive Origins of Communication Systems. The Evolution of Language. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference (Evolang8) (eds. A.D.M. Smith, M. Schouwstra, B. de Boer & K. Smith), 393-394. Singapore: World Scientific.

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