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The influence of shared visual context on the successful emergence of conventions in a referential communication task

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Müller,  Thomas F.
The Mint, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Winters,  James
The Mint, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Morin,  Olivier
The Mint, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Müller, T. F., Winters, J., & Morin, O. (2019). The influence of shared visual context on the successful emergence of conventions in a referential communication task. Cognitive Science, 43(9): e12783. doi:10.1111/cogs.12783.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-C2F6-B
Abstract
Abstract Human communication is thoroughly context bound. We present two experiments investigating the importance of the shared context, that is, the amount of knowledge two interlocutors have in common, for the successful emergence and use of novel conventions. Using a referential communication task where black-and-white pictorial symbols are used to convey colors, pairs of participants build shared conventions peculiar to their dyad without experimenter feedback, relying purely on ostensive-inferential communication. Both experiments demonstrate that access to the visual context promotes more successful communication. Importantly, success improves cumulatively, supporting the view that pairs establish conventional ways of using the symbols to communicate. Furthermore, Experiment 2 suggests that dyads with access to the visual context successfully adapt the conventions built for one color space to another color space, unlike dyads lacking it. In linking experimental pragmatics with language evolution, the study illustrates the benefits of exploring the emergence of linguistic conventions using an ostensive-inferential model of communication.