The article „Condition-dependent trade-offs maintain honest signalling " by Szabolcs Számadó, Flóra Samu and Károly Takács has been published in Royal Society Open Science.
Available online here: Számadó, Sz., Samu, F., and Takács, K. 2022. Condition-dependent trade-offs maintain honest signalling. Royal Society Open Science, 9(10): 220335. https://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.220335
How and why animals and humans signal reliably is a key issue in biology and social sciences that needs to be understood to explain the evolution of communication. In situations in which the receiver needs to differentiate between low- and high-quality signallers, once a ruling paradigm, the Handicap Principle has claimed that honest signals have to be costly to produce. Subsequent game theoretical models, however, highlighted that honest signals are not necessarily costly. Honesty is maintained by the potential cost of cheating: by the difference in the marginal benefit to marginal cost for low versus high-quality signallers; i.e. by differential trade-offs. Owing to the difficulties of manipulating signal costs and benefits, there is lack of empirical tests of these predictions. We present the results of a laboratory decision-making experiment with human participants to test the role of equilibrium signal cost and signalling trade-offs for the development of honest communication. We found that the trade-off manipulation had a much higher influence on the reliability of communication than the manipulation of the equilibrium cost of signal. Contrary to the predictions of the Handicap Principle, negative production cost promoted honesty at a very high level in the differential trade-off condition.