The evolution of costly traits through selection and the importance of oral speech in e-collaboration

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Electronic Markets


Genes code for the expression of phenotypic traits, such as behavioral (e.g., aggressiveness) and morphological (e.g., opposing thumbs) traits. Costly traits are phenotypic traits that evolved in spite of imposing a fitness cost, often in the form of a survival handicap. In non-human animals, the classic example of costly trait is the peacock's train, used by males to signal good health to females. It is argued here that oral speech is a costly trait evolved by our human ancestors to enable effective knowledge communication. It is shown that, because it is a costly trait, oral speech should be a particularly strong determinant of knowledge communication performance; an effect that generally applies to e-collaborative tasks performed by modern humans. The effects of oral speech support in e-collaborative tasks are discussed based on empirical studies, and shown to be consistent with the notion that oral speech is a costly trait. Specifically, it is shown that the use of e-collaboration technologies that suppress the ability to employ oral speech, when knowledge communication is attempted, leads to the two following negative outcomes: (a) a dramatic decrease in communication fluency, and (b) a significant increase in communication ambiguity. These effects are particularly acute in e-collaborative tasks of short duration. © Institute of Information Management, University of St. Gallen 2009.

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