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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A sheep in wolf's clothing : levels of deceit and detection in the evolution of communication Zareyan, Shahab


Trivers has hypothesized that self-deception in our species has evolved for the better deception of others: in an arms race between deception and deception-detection, the dishonest individuals evolve ever-more complex trickery and the deceived an ever-more refined ability to distinguish honesty from deception. Detection at some point becomes so precise that a degree of self-deception can evolve to avoid emitting secondary cues that otherwise give away the deceit. In an attempt to formalize this, we focus on aspects of self-deception that can be generalized to non-humans, as human self-deception by itself relies on concepts that are difficult to define or to apply to other organisms. We formally explore one central aspect of Trivers' hypothesis: the evolution of costly and well-integrated or deep deceptive morphs that span multiple signals and cues. We demonstrate that the depth of deception in a communicative interaction is correlated with the number of signals detected, the cost of errors in judgment for signal detectors, and the benefits of successful deception. We also show that the frequency of well-integrated deceptive strategies is highest when the cost of errors in judgment is high and the cost of detection of other less well-integrated forms of deception is low. These results may partially explain variation in deception in nature and provide researchers with predictions that can be tested empirically, with obvious implications for self-deception. Moreover, we argue that self-deception under Trivers' hypothesis is the product of a hierarchical system, in this case, the cognitive system, with some parts (ex. the subconscious) controlling and ultimately manipulating the information that is received by other parts (ex. the conscious). Although we do not model this, we emphasize that hierarchies are integral parts of many systems such as gene regulatory networks. Thus, in response to an arms race with an adversary, these hierarchies can potentially evolve ``internal deception'', with some parts transmitting manipulated information to other parts to prevent information leakage. We argue that modeling how properties of hierarchies affect the evolution of deception can allow for testable predictions and a better understanding of deception and self-deception in general. Supplementary materials available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/68953

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