Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Semiotic Constraints

  • Don FavareauEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3358-1


Semiotic constraints refer to the notion that the behavior of animals (including humans) is organized at least in part by what the things that they encounter in the world signify, or “mean,” to them. In the context of evolutionary psychology, such “meanings” do not refer to self-conscious mental processes but to naturally evolved patterns of behavior wherein a given stimulus has come to indicate, or point to, something other than itself for the members of a species. The term “semiotic constraints” has thus been used to refer both to those signs in the environment that productively constrain, and thus give shape to, an organism’s behavior, as well as to the conditions under which such stimuli have become meaningful for an organism to begin with.


“Semiosis” comes from the Greek terms sêma “sign” and -ōsis(“process”). Biosemiotics is thus the study of sign-processes in living systems, and “semiotic constraints,” in this context, refer to the evolutionary and...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

Section editors and affiliations

  • Christopher D. Watkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Psychology, School of Social and Health SciencesAbertay UniversityDundeeUK