Resolving current disagreements and ambiguities in the terminology of animal communication

G. D. Ruxton, H. M. Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Communication is central to most interactions between organisms. There is currently considerable controversy about the evolution, function and even about the most basic definition of communication. The controversy is linked to definitional ambiguities and disagreements. Here we discuss how some recent disagreements can be resolved and offer a clear set of definitions. Central to our approach is a definition of communication as being a trade between one organism (the informer) and another (the perceiver). The informer exerts influence on the perceiver through the communication process, and the perceiver experiences a change in its informational state (that is, gains information) as a consequence of detecting the communication. We define both influence and information explicitly and delineate between signalling, deceptive communication, and situations where perceivers respond to cues rather than signals. We demonstrate how our definitions allow resolution of conflicts arising in recent publications on the definitions on communication and related terms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2574-2585
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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