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Social living ultimately depends on coordination between group members, and communication is necessary to make this possible. We suggest that this might have been the key selection pressure acting on the evolution of language in humans and use a behavioural coordination model to explore the impact of communication efficiency on social group coordination. We show that when language production is expensive but there is an individual benefit to the efficiency with which individuals coordinate their behaviour, the evolution of efficient communication is selected for. Contrary to some views of language evolution, the speed of evolution is necessarily slow because there is no advantage in some individuals evolving communication abilities that much exceed those of the community at large. However, once a threshold competence has been achieved, evolution of higher order language skills may indeed be precipitate.

Original publication

DOI

10.1098/rsos.160259

Type

Journal article

Journal

R Soc Open Sci

Publication Date

12/2016

Volume

3

Keywords

agent-based models, communication efficiency, costs of communication, language evolution, social coordination, social group size