An evolutionary advantage for extravagant honesty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


A game-theoretic model of handicap signalling over a pair of signalling channels is introduced in order to determine when one channel has an evolutionary advantage over the other. The stability conditions for honest handicap signalling are presented for a single channel and are shown to conform with the results of prior handicap signalling models. Evolutionary simulations are then used to show that, for a two-channel system in which honest signalling is possible on both channels, the channel featuring larger advertisements at equilibrium is favoured by evolution. This result helps to address a significant tension in the handicap principle literature. While the original theory was motivated by the prevalence of extravagant natural signalling, contemporary models have demonstrated that it is the cost associated with deception that stabilises honesty, and that the honest signals exhibited at equilibrium need not be extravagant at all. The current model suggests that while extravagant and wasteful signals are not required to ensure a signalling system's evolutionary stability, extravagant signalling systems may enjoy an advantage in terms of evolutionary attainability.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)30-38
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • handicap principle
  • honest signalling
  • extravagance
  • evolutionary attainability

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