Referential communication is a complex form of social interaction that communicates a spatially or temporally distant referent. Previous modeling practices have studied how artificial agents manage to communicate locations that directly determine foraging behaviors. In our study, we introduce conceptual referential communication. In this mode of referential communication, communicated information can lead to behaviors that change flexibly to suit the environment. Instead of giving specific behavioral instructions, this mode only communicates a label of the desired referent, the location of which is unknown to both the sender and receiver. This requires the signal receiver to adjust its foraging behavior based on its own exploration of the environment. We evolve artificial dynamical agents that can communicate 2 and 3 different labels and successfully forage the target label in changing environments. We found that a typical strategy to communicate and differentiate labels in our experiments is by varying the numbers and lengths of contacts between the agents. We also identify several ways in which the receiver develops inter-neurons that differentiate and store information both from communication and the environment.

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Author notes

Conceptualization, methodology, software, investigation, writing (original draft and editing), visualization.

Conceptualization, methodology, software, writing (review and editing), visualization.

Supervision and writing (review and editing).

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