Public Library of Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
This paper examines a cognitive mechanism that drives perspective-taking and egocentrism in interpersonal communication. Using a conceptual referential communication task, in which participants describe a range of abstract geometric shapes, Experiment 1 shows that perspective-taking and egocentric communication are frequent communication strategies. Experiment 2 tests a selection heuristic account of perspective-taking and egocentric communication. It uses participants' shape description ratings to predict their communication strategy. Participants' communication strategy was predicted by how informative they perceived the different shape descriptions to be. When participants' personal shape description was perceived to be more informative than their addressee's shape description, there was a strong bias to communicate egocentrically. By contrast, when their addressee's shape description was perceived to be more informative, there was a strong bias to take their addressee's perspective. When the shape descriptions were perceived to be equally informative, there was a moderate bias to communicate egocentrically. This simple, but powerful, selection heuristic may be critical to the cumulative cultural evolution of human communication systems, and cumulative cultural evolution more generally.
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