Communication and Coordination
John H. Miller and Scott Moser
Key Words:
Communication, signaling, tagging, coordination, stag hunt, automata, adaptation
Remarkable levels of coordination are observed among social agents; yet the exact mechanisms by which such agents coordinate are not well understood. Here we examine the role of communication in achieving coordination--in particular, does endowing agents with the ability to communicate lead to more favorable outcomes? To pursue this question we employ an adaptive model of strategically communicating agents (Miller et al., 2002) playing the Stag Hunt game. We find that communication plays a key role in the ability of agents to reach and maintain superior coordination. In the absence of communication, agents tend to get trapped at the inferior coordination point. However, once agents reach a particular strategic threshold, sending even a priori meaningless messages serves to increase the likelihood that the population will coordinate on the superior outcome. While the system spends the majority of its time with well-coordinated behavior, it is not static--such periods are often punctuated by brief transitions in which the system switches to the alternative coordination point. We analyze the various mechanisms that account for this dynamic behavior and find that there are a few critical pathways by which the system transitions from one coordination point to another. Communication plays a critical, yet short-lived, role in one key pathway. Our analysis suggests that giving agents the ability to communicate even a priori meaningless messages may promote the emergence of a rich, and often robust, “ecology'” of behaviors that allows agents to achieve new, and in this case superior, outcomes.