Andrea Ravignani

Publications

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8
  • Filippi, P., Jadoul, Y., Ravignani, A., Thompson, B., & de Boer, B. (2016). Seeking Temporal Predictability in Speech: Comparing Statistical Approaches on 18 World Languages. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10: 586. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00586.

    Abstract

    Temporal regularities in speech, such as interdependencies in the timing of speech events, are thought to scaffold early acquisition of the building blocks in speech. By providing on-line clues to the location and duration of upcoming syllables, temporal structure may aid segmentation and clustering of continuous speech into separable units. This hypothesis tacitly assumes that learners exploit predictability in the temporal structure of speech. Existing measures of speech timing tend to focus on first-order regularities among adjacent units, and are overly sensitive to idiosyncrasies in the data they describe. Here, we compare several statistical methods on a sample of 18 languages, testing whether syllable occurrence is predictable over time. Rather than looking for differences between languages, we aim to find across languages (using clearly defined acoustic, rather than orthographic, measures), temporal predictability in the speech signal which could be exploited by a language learner. First, we analyse distributional regularities using two novel techniques: a Bayesian ideal learner analysis, and a simple distributional measure. Second, we model higher-order temporal structure—regularities arising in an ordered series of syllable timings—testing the hypothesis that non-adjacent temporal structures may explain the gap between subjectively-perceived temporal regularities, and the absence of universally-accepted lower-order objective measures. Together, our analyses provide limited evidence for predictability at different time scales, though higher-order predictability is difficult to reliably infer. We conclude that temporal predictability in speech may well arise from a combination of individually weak perceptual cues at multiple structural levels, but is challenging to pinpoint.
  • Geambaşu, A., Ravignani, A., & Levelt, C. C. (2016). Preliminary experiments on human sensitivity to rhythmic structure in a grammar with recursive self-similarity. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10: 281. doi:10.3389/fnins.2016.00281.

    Abstract

    We present the first rhythm detection experiment using a Lindenmayer grammar, a self-similar recursive grammar shown previously to be learnable by adults using speech stimuli. Results show that learners were unable to correctly accept or reject grammatical and ungrammatical strings at the group level, although five (of 40) participants were able to do so with detailed instructions before the exposure phase.
  • Ravignani, A., Delgado, T., & Kirby, S. (2016). Musical evolution in the lab exhibits rhythmic universals. Nature Human Behaviour, 1: 0007. doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0007.

    Abstract

    Music exhibits some cross-cultural similarities, despite its variety across the world. Evidence from a broad range of human cultures suggests the existence of musical universals1, here defined as strong regularities emerging across cultures above chance. In particular, humans demonstrate a general proclivity for rhythm2, although little is known about why music is particularly rhythmic and why the same structural regularities are present in rhythms around the world. We empirically investigate the mechanisms underlying musical universals for rhythm, showing how music can evolve culturally from randomness. Human participants were asked to imitate sets of randomly generated drumming sequences and their imitation attempts became the training set for the next participants in independent transmission chains. By perceiving and imitating drumming sequences from each other, participants turned initially random sequences into rhythmically structured patterns. Drumming patterns developed into rhythms that are more structured, easier to learn, distinctive for each experimental cultural tradition and characterized by all six statistical universals found among world music1; the patterns appear to be adapted to human learning, memory and cognition. We conclude that musical rhythm partially arises from the influence of human cognitive and biological biases on the process of cultural evolution.

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  • Ravignani, A., & Cook, P. F. (2016). The evolutionary biology of dance without frills. Current Biology, 26(19), R878-R879. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.07.076.

    Abstract

    Recently psychologists have taken up the question of whether dance is reliant on unique human adaptations, or whether it is rooted in neural and cognitive mechanisms shared with other species 1, 2. In its full cultural complexity, human dance clearly has no direct analog in animal behavior. Most definitions of dance include the consistent production of movement sequences timed to an external rhythm. While not sufficient for dance, modes of auditory-motor timing, such as synchronization and entrainment, are experimentally tractable constructs that may be analyzed and compared between species. In an effort to assess the evolutionary precursors to entrainment and social features of human dance, Laland and colleagues [2] have suggested that dance may be an incidental byproduct of adaptations supporting vocal or motor imitation — referred to here as the ‘imitation and sequencing’ hypothesis. In support of this hypothesis, Laland and colleagues rely on four convergent lines of evidence drawn from behavioral and neurobiological research on dance behavior in humans and rhythmic behavior in other animals. Here, we propose a less cognitive, more parsimonious account for the evolution of dance. Our ‘timing and interaction’ hypothesis suggests that dance is scaffolded off of broadly conserved timing mechanisms allowing both cooperative and antagonistic social coordination.
  • Ravignani, A., Fitch, W. T., Hanke, F. D., Heinrich, T., Hurgitsch, B., Kotz, S. A., Scharff, C., Stoeger, A. S., & de Boer, B. (2016). What pinnipeds have to say about human speech, music, and the evolution of rhythm. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10: 274. doi:10.3389/fnins.2016.00274.

    Abstract

    Research on the evolution of human speech and music benefits from hypotheses and data generated in a number of disciplines. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the high relevance of pinniped research for the study of speech, musical rhythm, and their origins, bridging and complementing current research on primates and birds. We briefly discuss speech, vocal learning, and rhythm from an evolutionary and comparative perspective. We review the current state of the art on pinniped communication and behavior relevant to the evolution of human speech and music, showing interesting parallels to hypotheses on rhythmic behavior in early hominids. We suggest future research directions in terms of species to test and empirical data needed.
  • Ravignani, A., Sonnweber, R.-S., Stobbe, N., & Fitch, W. T. (2013). Action at a distance: Dependency sensitivity in a New World primate. Biology Letters, 9(6): 0130852. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0852.

    Abstract

    Sensitivity to dependencies (correspondences between distant items) in sensory stimuli plays a crucial role in human music and language. Here, we show that squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) can detect abstract, non-adjacent dependencies in auditory stimuli. Monkeys discriminated between tone sequences containing a dependency and those lacking it, and generalized to previously unheard pitch classes and novel dependency distances. This constitutes the first pattern learning study where artificial stimuli were designed with the species' communication system in mind. These results suggest that the ability to recognize dependencies represents a capability that had already evolved in humans’ last common ancestor with squirrel monkeys, and perhaps before.
  • Ravignani, A., Olivera, M. V., Gingras, B., Hofer, R., Hernandez, R. C., Sonnweber, R. S., & Fitch, T. W. (2013). Primate drum kit: A system for studying acoustic pattern production by non-human primates using acceleration and strain sensors. Sensors, 13(8), 9790-9820. doi:10.3390/s130809790.

    Abstract

    The possibility of achieving experimentally controlled, non-vocal acoustic production in non-human primates is a key step to enable the testing of a number of hypotheses on primate behavior and cognition. However, no device or solution is currently available, with the use of sensors in non-human animals being almost exclusively devoted to applications in food industry and animal surveillance. Specifically, no device exists which simultaneously allows: (i) spontaneous production of sound or music by non-human animals via object manipulation, (ii) systematical recording of data sensed from these movements, (iii) the possibility to alter the acoustic feedback properties of the object using remote control. We present two prototypes we developed for application with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) which, while fulfilling the aforementioned requirements, allow to arbitrarily associate sounds to physical object movements. The prototypes differ in sensing technology, costs, intended use and construction requirements. One prototype uses four piezoelectric elements embedded between layers of Plexiglas and foam. Strain data is sent to a computer running Python through an Arduino board. A second prototype consists in a modified Wii Remote contained in a gum toy. Acceleration data is sent via Bluetooth to a computer running Max/MSP. We successfully pilot tested the first device with a group of chimpanzees. We foresee using these devices for a range of cognitive experiments.
  • Ravignani, A., Gingras, B., Asano, R., Sonnweber, R., Matellan, V., & Fitch, W. T. (2013). The evolution of rhythmic cognition: New perspectives and technologies in comparative research. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, I. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1199-1204). Austin,TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    Music is a pervasive phenomenon in human culture, and musical rhythm is virtually present in all musical traditions. Research on the evolution and cognitive underpinnings of rhythm can benefit from a number of approaches. We outline key concepts and definitions, allowing fine-grained analysis of rhythmic cognition in experimental studies. We advocate comparative animal research as a useful approach to answer questions about human music cognition and review experimental evidence from different species. Finally, we suggest future directions for research on the cognitive basis of rhythm. Apart from research in semi-natural setups, possibly allowed by “drum set for chimpanzees” prototypes presented here for the first time, mathematical modeling and systematic use of circular statistics may allow promising advances.

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