Benefits of Mindreading and Signaling

In many cases, the benefits of mindreading will have nothing to do with signaling, but the following are common situations in which signaling benefits (to receiver and/or sender) can emerge:

Behavioral Prediction: predicting the behavior of another.

Behavioral Stabilization: regulating other people’s behavior so that it becomes stable and predictable.

Trust Problems: discerning whether to approach a person, trust them with your property, expect that they will reciprocate your altruism, etc.

Commitment Problems: getting others to commit to a future action or having a reason to commit yourself to a future action.

Coordination Problems: figuring out how to work with others to jointly accomplish a goal or to work in parallel.

The first two categories are quite broad and include the latter three as special instances: predicting and shaping the behavior of others is a way to achieve trust, commitment, and coordination. But what does any of this have to do with belief signaling? Our behaviors are underpinned by beliefs, desires, values and emotions that contribute to solving these problems. Mindreading allows for the possibility of detecting and molding these mental states into signals. In turn, beliefs that signal tribal loyalties, self-assessments, values, worldviews, and the like allow us to even better anticipate the behavior of others and rely on them. This generates more robust networks of trust, commitment, and coordination.

Eric Funkhouser, Evolutionary psychology, learning, and belief signaling: design for natural and artificial systems

August 29, 2023