Human intentional communication is marked by its flexibility and context sensitivity. Hypothesized brain mechanisms can provide convincing and complete explanations of the human capacity for intentional communication only insofar as they can match the computational power required for displaying that capacity. It is thus of importance for cognitive neuroscience to know how computationally complex intentional communication actually is. Though the subject of considerable debate, the computational complexity of communication remains so far unknown. In this paper we defend the position that the computational complexity of communication is not a constant, as some views of communication seem to hold, but rather a function of situational factors. We present a methodology for studying and characterizing the computational complexity of communication under different situational constraints. We illustrate our methodology for a model of the problems solved by receivers and senders during a communicative exchange. This approach opens the way to a principled identification of putative model parameters that control cognitive processes supporting intentional communication.
Keywords: communication, computational complexity, computational modeling, intractability, Bayesian modeling, goal inference
Citation: van Rooij I, Kwisthout J, Blokpoel M, Szymanik J, Wareham T and Toni I (2011) Intentional communication: Computationally easy or difficult?. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 5:52. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00052
Received: 08 July 2010;
Accepted: 16 May 2011;
Published online: 30 June 2011.
Edited by:Harold Bekkering, University of Nijmegen, Netherlands
Copyright: © 2011 van Rooij, Kwisthout, Blokpoel, Szymanik, Wareham and Toni. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.
*Correspondence: Iris van Rooij, Centre for Cognition, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior, Radboud University Nijmegen, Montessorilaan 3, 6525 HR Nijmegen, Netherlands. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org