David Lewis in the lab: experimental results on the emergence of meaning

Justin Bruner, Cailin O’Connor, Hannah Rubin, Simon M. Huttegger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this paper we use an experimental approach to investigate how linguistic conventions can emerge in a society without explicit agreement. As a starting point we consider the signaling game introduced by Lewis (Convention 1969). We find that in experimental settings, small groups can quickly develop conventions of signal meaning in these games. We also investigate versions of the game where the theoretical literature indicates that meaning will be less likely to arise—when there are more than two states for actors to transfer meaning about and when some states are more likely than others. In these cases, we find that actors are less likely to arrive at strategies where signals have clear conventional meaning. We conclude with a proposal for extending the use of the methodology of experimental economics in experimental philosophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-621
Number of pages19
JournalSynthese
Volume195
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Evolution
  • Experimental philosophy
  • Meaning
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)

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