From the cell-to-cell signals our bodies require to function to bipartisan talks in Congress, communication is a critical component of daily life. UCI logic & philosophy of science associate professor Simon Huttegger studies these processes - known as signaling - through the lenses of theoretical models.

“In current theoretical signaling models, only two outcomes are investigated: one with communication and one where communication doesn't work,” he says. In real life, however, there is often a middle ground and it is here that has his interest. 

Consider, for example, a successfully implemented business merger between two corporations or the countless ways in which couples compromise to keep their relationships rolling. 

“In many of these situations, interests are partly overlapping and partly conflicting,” he explains.

Currently, says Huttegger, there are no models to help explain these partially communicative outcomes, only the extremes. With a $275,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, he is working with evolutionary biologist Carl Bergstrom, University of Washington, and philosophy assistant professor Kevin Zollman, Carnegie Mellon University and UCI alumnus ’07, to fill this gap.

While the study is purely theoretical, the resulting models have wide applications in biology, economics and business in helping to explain how mate selection has evolved, how oligopolies operate, and how partnerships work.

Funding for this study began in 2010 and will run through September 2013.

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