The handicap principle is an artifact

Simon M. Huttegger, Justin P. Bruner, Kevin J.S. Zollman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The handicap principle is one of the most influential ideas in evolutionary biology. It asserts that when there is conflict of interest in a signaling interaction signals must be costly in order to be reliable. While in evolutionary biology it is a common practice to distinguish between indexes and fakable signals, we argue this dichotomy is an artifact of existing popular signaling models.Once this distinction is abandoned, we show one cannot adequately understand signaling behavior by focusing solely on cost. Under our reframing, cost becomes one—and probably not the most important—of a collection of factors preventing deception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1009
Number of pages13
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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