This is a dart frog:
You’d think a frog would want to blend into its environment so as to protect itself from predators, but not the dart frog, because dart frogs are poisonous. The dart frog says to predators, “You should know how much I don’t care about how I look, because if you ate me you’d die.”
In evolutionary terms, the dart frog has developed an effective “signaling strategy.”
I tuck my polo into my athletic shorts. Sometimes I get made fun of for it because it’s not fashionable, but my tuck is an unintentional signaling strategy. It says, “I care about your development so much and I am so good at my job that I’m willing to break rules of fashion to get the job done.”
This is a positive signaling strategy, something that promotes a truth in the world, but signaling strategies can also be negative, promoting falsehoods.
Spending $79 for 10,000 fake Twitter followers is a negative signaling strategy, as are most of the filters you put on your Instagram pictures.
Leasing a $40,000 car when you already have a negative net worth is a negative signaling strategy, as are the fancy things you buy while going into credit card debt.