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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Two's company but six is a crowd: emergence of conventions in multiparty communication games


From classrooms to dinner parties, many of our everyday conversations take place in larger groups where speakers address multiple listeners at once. Such multiparty settings raise a number of challenges for classical theories of communication, which largely focus on dyadic interactions. In this study, we investigated how speakers adapt their referring expressions over time as a function of the feedback they receive from multiple parties. We collected a large corpus of multiparty repeated reference games (98 games, 390 participants, 116K words) where speakers designed referring expressions for groups of 1 to 5 listeners. Larger groups tended to use more words total and to introduce more new words; nonetheless, most groups were able to converge to more efficient conventions regardless of the number of listeners.

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