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Information, influence, and the causal-explanatory role of content in understanding receiver responses

Kalkman, David

Description

Sceptics of informational terminology argue that by attributing content to signals, we fail to address nonhuman animal communication on its own terms. Primarily, we ignore that communication is sender driven: i.e. driven by the intrinsic physical properties of signals, themselves the result of selection pressures acting on signals to influence receivers in ways beneficial for senders. In contrast, information proponents argue that this ignores the degree to which communication is, in fact,...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorKalkman, David
dc.date.accessioned2020-12-20T20:57:01Z
dc.date.available2020-12-20T20:57:01Z
dc.identifier.issn0169-3867
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/218133
dc.description.abstractSceptics of informational terminology argue that by attributing content to signals, we fail to address nonhuman animal communication on its own terms. Primarily, we ignore that communication is sender driven: i.e. driven by the intrinsic physical properties of signals, themselves the result of selection pressures acting on signals to influence receivers in ways beneficial for senders. In contrast, information proponents argue that this ignores the degree to which communication is, in fact, receiver driven. The latter argue that an exclusive focus on the intrinsic mechanical properties of signals cannot explain why receivers respond as they do. This is because receivers are not prisoners of sender influence. They possess response flexibility, and so we can only explain why receivers respond to signals as they do by positing that receivers ‘derive information’ from signals. I argue that, while basically true, this response flexibility can take one of two forms depending on the causal-explanatory role of information in understanding the response of the receiver: diachronic, on the one hand; and synchronic, on the other. In species with diachronic response flexibility only, information is derived by receivers from signals in a minimal sense. In such cases, information is an ultimate explanatory construct: one underpinned by historical facts at the population level. Alternatively, in species with synchronic response flexibility, information is derived by receivers from signals in a richer sense. Here, information is a proximate explanatory construct: one underpinned by cognitive-mechanistic facts at the level of the individual organism. Without recognising the different ways information can be derived from signals, and the different causal-explanatory roles (ultimate vs proximate) information can play in understanding alternate kinds of receiver flexibility (diachronic vs synchronic), proponents of information leave themselves open to the charge of anthropomorphising some signalling systems.
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdf
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.publisherKluwer Academic Publishers
dc.sourceBiology and Philosophy
dc.titleInformation, influence, and the causal-explanatory role of content in understanding receiver responses
dc.typeJournal article
local.description.notesImported from ARIES
dc.date.issued2017
local.identifier.absfor220399 - Philosophy not elsewhere classified
local.identifier.ariespublicationu4351680xPUB252
local.type.statusPublished Version
local.contributor.affiliationKalkman, David, College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU
local.bibliographicCitation.startpage1
local.bibliographicCitation.lastpage24
local.identifier.doi10.1007/s10539-017-9596-9
dc.date.updated2020-11-23T10:41:16Z
local.identifier.scopusID2-s2.0-85030698756
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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