“There’s a rather lovely company in the UK that pays people who are housebound—whether for medical reasons, or are caregivers—to handwrite envelopes and letters. You could regard this as a very silly thing to do, but in costly signaling theory terms, it makes perfect sense. The open rate of these letters, and the response they generate, is an order of magnitude higher than for laser-printed letters.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is countersignaling, which, unlike signaling, seems to be uniquely human. There aren’t cases of peacocks who demonstrate their extraordinary genetic quality by having really shitty tails. What seems to happen with humans is you have multiple parallel status currencies, and quite often you will signal your position on status by adopting none of the status currencies of the class immediately below your own, or by essentially demonstrating zero effort in standard status currencies. An unwashed bass guitarist in a cool rock band, for example, can get away with poor levels of hygiene, which signals: “I’m so sexy by dint of my bass guitar playing skills that I can get away with not making an effort in any of these conventional areas.” Sometimes it’s done as a positional thing, and sometimes it’s done as a pure demonstration of handicap.
Relevance theory [from Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson] might be another thing that’s interesting. In other words, replacing the “conduit” idea of communication with this idea that we communicate the minimum necessary for the recipient to recreate the message within their own head using context as a very large part of the information. Those interesting new theories of communication, which don’t always sit with the Claude Shannon theories, are worth exploring. A very simple manifestation would be jokes which, like IKEA furniture, demand some self-assembly on the part of the recipient.”
Things to Hang on Your Mental Mug Tree | Edge.org