Cool Logic

Silvan Hungerbühler and Haukur Páll Jónsson (ILLC)

Sticks and Stones

March 17th at 17:30, in F1.15

When Donald Trump was asked to explain calling women “fat pigs”, “dogs”, “slobs” and “disgusting animals” his reply was: “I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either”. In contrast to Mr. Trump, the speakers at COOL Logic this week had time. We use game theory to analyze the pragmatic phenomenon of harmful language use. We do this by looking at situations where the cost a message’s recipient faces also varies depending on the expressions employed by the sender. We first offer a formal explanation for the reason why the offensive use of language is so persistent. Second, we argue that there is potential for better communication, according to efficiency standards presently introduced. And third, we argue that the degree of empathy language users exhibit is of crucial importance to reap these benefits.