Andrea Ravignani

Publications

Displaying 1 - 18 of 18
  • Delgado, T., Ravignani, A., Verhoef, T., Thompson, B., Grossi, T., & Kirby, S. (2018). Cultural transmission of melodic and rhythmic universals: Four experiments and a model. In C. Cuskley, M. Flaherty, H. Little, L. McCrohon, A. Ravignani, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG XII) (pp. 89-91). Toruń, Poland: NCU Press. doi:10.12775/3991-1.019.
  • Kotz, S. A., Ravignani, A., & Fitch, W. T. (2018). The evolution of rhythm processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22(10), 896-910. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2018.08.002.
  • Lumaca, M., Ravignani, A., & Baggio, G. (2018). Music evolution in the laboratory: Cultural transmission meets neurophysiology. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12: 246. doi:10.3389%2Ffnins.2018.00246.

    Abstract

    In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the biological and cultural evolution of music, and specifically in the role played by perceptual and cognitive factors in shaping core features of musical systems, such as melody, harmony, and rhythm. One proposal originates in the language sciences. It holds that aspects of musical systems evolve by adapting gradually, in the course of successive generations, to the structural and functional characteristics of the sensory and memory systems of learners and “users” of music. This hypothesis has found initial support in laboratory experiments on music transmission. In this article, we first review some of the most important theoretical and empirical contributions to the field of music evolution. Next, we identify a major current limitation of these studies, i.e., the lack of direct neural support for the hypothesis of cognitive adaptation. Finally, we discuss a recent experiment in which this issue was addressed by using event-related potentials (ERPs). We suggest that the introduction of neurophysiology in cultural transmission research may provide novel insights on the micro-evolutionary origins of forms of variation observed in cultural systems.
  • Ravignani, A. (2018). Comment on “Temporal and spatial variation in harbor seal (Phoca vitulina L.) roar calls from southern Scandinavia” [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 141, 1824-1834 (2017)]. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 143, 504-508. doi:10.1121/1.5021770.

    Abstract

    In their recent article, Sabinsky and colleagues investigated heterogeneity in harbor seals' vocalizations. The authors found seasonal and geographical variation in acoustic parameters, warning readers that recording conditions might account for some of their results. This paper expands on the temporal aspect of the encountered heterogeneity in harbor seals' vocalizations. Temporal information is the least susceptible to variable recording conditions. Hence geographical and seasonal variability in roar timing constitutes the most robust finding in the target article. In pinnipeds, evidence of timing and rhythm in the millisecond range—as opposed to circadian and seasonal rhythms—has theoretical and interdisciplinary relevance. In fact, the study of rhythm and timing in harbor seals is particularly decisive to support or confute a cross-species hypothesis, causally linking the evolution of vocal production learning and rhythm. The results by Sabinsky and colleagues can shed light on current scientific questions beyond pinniped bioacoustics, and help formulate empirically testable predictions.
  • Ravignani, A. (2018). Darwin, sexual selection, and the origins of music. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 33(10), 716-719. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2018.07.006.

    Abstract

    Humans devote ample time to produce and perceive music. How and why this behavioral propensity originated in our species is unknown. For centuries, speculation dominated the study of the evolutionary origins of musicality. Following Darwin’s early intuitions, recent empirical research is opening a new chapter to tackle this mystery.
  • Ravignani, A., Thompson, B., Grossi, T., Delgado, T., & Kirby, S. (2018). Evolving building blocks of rhythm: How human cognition creates music via cultural transmission. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1423(1), 176-187. doi:10.1111/nyas.13610.

    Abstract

    Why does musical rhythm have the structure it does? Musical rhythm, in all its cross-cultural diversity, exhibits commonalities across world cultures. Traditionally, music research has been split into two fields. Some scientists focused onmusicality, namely the human biocognitive predispositions formusic, with an emphasis on cross-cultural similarities. Other scholars investigatedmusic, seen as a cultural product, focusing on the variation in worldmusical cultures.Recent experiments founddeep connections betweenmusicandmusicality, reconciling theseopposing views. Here, we address the question of how individual cognitive biases affect the process of cultural evolution of music. Data from two experiments are analyzed using two complementary techniques. In the experiments, participants hear drumming patterns and imitate them. These patterns are then given to the same or another participant to imitate. The structure of these initially random patterns is tracked along experimental “generations.” Frequentist statistics show how participants’ biases are amplified by cultural transmission, making drumming patterns more structured. Structure is achieved faster in transmission within rather than between participants. A Bayesian model approximates the motif structures participants learned and created. Our data and models suggest that individual biases for musicality may shape the cultural transmission of musical rhythm.

    Additional information

    nyas13610-sup-0001-suppmat.pdf
  • Ravignani, A., Chiandetti, C., & Gamba, M. (2018). L'evoluzione del ritmo. Le Scienze, (04 maggio 2018).
  • Ravignani, A., Garcia, M., Gross, S., De Reus, K., Hoeksema, N., Rubio-Garcia, A., & de Boer, B. (2018). Pinnipeds have something to say about speech and rhythm. In C. Cuskley, M. Flaherty, H. Little, L. McCrohon, A. Ravignani, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG XII) (pp. 399-401). Toruń, Poland: NCU Press. doi:10.12775/3991-1.095.
  • Ravignani, A. (2018). Spontaneous rhythms in a harbor seal pup calls. BMC Research Notes, 11: 3. doi:10.1186/s13104-017-3107-6.

    Abstract

    Objectives: Timing and rhythm (i.e. temporal structure) are crucial, though historically neglected, dimensions of animal communication. When investigating these in non-human animals, it is often difficult to balance experimental control and ecological validity. Here I present the first step of an attempt to balance the two, focusing on the timing of vocal rhythms in a harbor seal pup (Phoca vitulina). Collection of this data had a clear aim: To find spontaneous vocal rhythms in this individual in order to design individually-adapted and ecologically-relevant stimuli for a later playback experiment. Data description: The calls of one seal pup were recorded. The audio recordings were annotated using Praat, a free software to analyze vocalizations in humans and other animals. The annotated onsets and offsets of vocalizations were then imported in a Python script. The script extracted three types of timing information: the duration of calls, the intervals between calls’ onsets, and the intervals between calls’ maximum-intensity peaks. Based on the annotated data, available to download, I provide simple descriptive statistics for these temporal measures, and compare their distributions.
  • Ravignani, A., Thompson, B., & Filippi, P. (2018). The evolution of musicality: What can be learned from language evolution research? Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12: 20. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00020.

    Abstract

    Language and music share many commonalities, both as natural phenomena and as subjects of intellectual inquiry. Rather than exhaustively reviewing these connections, we focus on potential cross-pollination of methodological inquiries and attitudes. We highlight areas in which scholarship on the evolution of language may inform the evolution of music. We focus on the value of coupled empirical and formal methodologies, and on the futility of mysterianism, the declining view that the nature, origins and evolution of language cannot be addressed empirically. We identify key areas in which the evolution of language as a discipline has flourished historically, and suggest ways in which these advances can be integrated into the study of the evolution of music.
  • Ravignani, A., Thompson, B., Lumaca, M., & Grube, M. (2018). Why do durations in musical rhythms conform to small integer ratios? Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 12: 86. doi:10.3389/fncom.2018.00086.

    Abstract

    One curious aspect of human timing is the organization of rhythmic patterns in small integer ratios. Behavioral and neural research has shown that adjacent time intervals in rhythms tend to be perceived and reproduced as approximate fractions of small numbers (e.g., 3/2). Recent work on iterated learning and reproduction further supports this: given a randomly timed drum pattern to reproduce, participants subconsciously transform it toward small integer ratios. The mechanisms accounting for this “attractor” phenomenon are little understood, but might be explained by combining two theoretical frameworks from psychophysics. The scalar expectancy theory describes time interval perception and reproduction in terms of Weber's law: just detectable durational differences equal a constant fraction of the reference duration. The notion of categorical perception emphasizes the tendency to perceive time intervals in categories, i.e., “short” vs. “long.” In this piece, we put forward the hypothesis that the integer-ratio bias in rhythm perception and production might arise from the interaction of the scalar property of timing with the categorical perception of time intervals, and that neurally it can plausibly be related to oscillatory activity. We support our integrative approach with mathematical derivations to formalize assumptions and provide testable predictions. We present equations to calculate durational ratios by: (i) parameterizing the relationship between durational categories, (ii) assuming a scalar timing constant, and (iii) specifying one (of K) category of ratios. Our derivations provide the basis for future computational, behavioral, and neurophysiological work to test our model.
  • Ravignani, A., & Verhoef, T. (2018). Which melodic universals emerge from repeated signaling games?: A Note on Lumaca and Baggio (2017). Artificial Life, 24(2), 149-153. doi:10.1162/ARTL_a_00259.

    Abstract

    Music is a peculiar human behavior, yet we still know little as to why and how music emerged. For centuries, the study of music has been the sole prerogative of the humanities. Lately, however, music is being increasingly investigated by psychologists, neuroscientists, biologists, and computer scientists. One approach to studying the origins of music is to empirically test hypotheses about the mechanisms behind this structured behavior. Recent lab experiments show how musical rhythm and melody can emerge via the process of cultural transmission. In particular, Lumaca and Baggio (2017) tested the emergence of a sound system at the boundary between music and language. In this study, participants were given random pairs of signal-meanings; when participants negotiated their meaning and played a “ game of telephone ” with them, these pairs became more structured and systematic. Over time, the small biases introduced in each artificial transmission step accumulated, displaying quantitative trends, including the emergence, over the course of artificial human generations, of features resembling properties of language and music. In this Note, we highlight the importance of Lumaca and Baggio ʼ s experiment, place it in the broader literature on the evolution of language and music, and suggest refinements for future experiments. We conclude that, while psychological evidence for the emergence of proto-musical features is accumulating, complementary work is needed: Mathematical modeling and computer simulations should be used to test the internal consistency of experimentally generated hypotheses and to make new predictions.
  • Fuhrmann, D., Ravignani, A., Marshall-Pescini, S., & Whiten, A. (2014). Synchrony and motor mimicking in chimpanzee observational learning. Scientific Reports, 4: 5283. doi:10.1038/srep05283.

    Abstract

    Cumulative tool-based culture underwrote our species' evolutionary success and tool-based nut-cracking is one of the strongest candidates for cultural transmission in our closest relatives, chimpanzees. However the social learning processes that may explain both the similarities and differences between the species remain unclear. A previous study of nut-cracking by initially naïve chimpanzees suggested that a learning chimpanzee holding no hammer nevertheless replicated hammering actions it witnessed. This observation has potentially important implications for the nature of the social learning processes and underlying motor coding involved. In the present study, model and observer actions were quantified frame-by-frame and analysed with stringent statistical methods, demonstrating synchrony between the observer's and model's movements, cross-correlation of these movements above chance level and a unidirectional transmission process from model to observer. These results provide the first quantitative evidence for motor mimicking underlain by motor coding in apes, with implications for mirror neuron function.

    Additional information

    Supplementary Information
  • Martins, M., Raju, A., & Ravignani, A. (2014). Evaluating the role of quantitative modeling in language evolution. In L. McCrohon, B. Thompson, T. Verhoef, & H. Yamauchi (Eds.), The Past, Present and Future of Language Evolution Research: Student volume of the 9th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (pp. 84-93). Tokyo: EvoLang9 Organising Committee.

    Abstract

    Models are a flourishing and indispensable area of research in language evolution. Here we highlight critical issues in using and interpreting models, and suggest viable approaches. First, contrasting models can explain the same data and similar modelling techniques can lead to diverging conclusions. This should act as a reminder to use the extreme malleability of modelling parsimoniously when interpreting results. Second, quantitative techniques similar to those used in modelling language evolution have proven themselves inadequate in other disciplines. Cross-disciplinary fertilization is crucial to avoid mistakes which have previously occurred in other areas. Finally, experimental validation is necessary both to sharpen models' hypotheses, and to support their conclusions. Our belief is that models should be interpreted as quantitative demonstrations of logical possibilities, rather than as direct sources of evidence. Only an integration of theoretical principles, quantitative proofs and empirical validation can allow research in the evolution of language to progress.
  • Ravignani, A., Bowling, D. L., & Fitch, W. T. (2014). Chorusing, synchrony, and the evolutionary functions of rhythm. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 1118. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01118.

    Abstract

    A central goal of biomusicology is to understand the biological basis of human musicality. One approach to this problem has been to compare core components of human musicality (relative pitch perception, entrainment, etc.) with similar capacities in other animal species. Here we extend and clarify this comparative approach with respect to rhythm. First, whereas most comparisons between human music and animal acoustic behavior have focused on spectral properties (melody and harmony), we argue for the central importance of temporal properties, and propose that this domain is ripe for further comparative research. Second, whereas most rhythm research in non-human animals has examined animal timing in isolation, we consider how chorusing dynamics can shape individual timing, as in human music and dance, arguing that group behavior is key to understanding the adaptive functions of rhythm. To illustrate the interdependence between individual and chorusing dynamics, we present a computational model of chorusing agents relating individual call timing with synchronous group behavior. Third, we distinguish and clarify mechanistic and functional explanations of rhythmic phenomena, often conflated in the literature, arguing that this distinction is key for understanding the evolution of musicality. Fourth, we expand biomusicological discussions beyond the species typically considered, providing an overview of chorusing and rhythmic behavior across a broad range of taxa (orthopterans, fireflies, frogs, birds, and primates). Finally, we propose an “Evolving Signal Timing” hypothesis, suggesting that similarities between timing abilities in biological species will be based on comparable chorusing behaviors. We conclude that the comparative study of chorusing species can provide important insights into the adaptive function(s) of rhythmic behavior in our “proto-musical” primate ancestors, and thus inform our understanding of the biology and evolution of rhythm in human music and language.
  • Ravignani, A. (2014). Chronometry for the chorusing herd: Hamilton's legacy on context-dependent acoustic signalling—a comment on Herbers (2013). Biology Letters, 10(1): 20131018. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.1018.
  • Ravignani, A., Bowling, D., & Kirby, S. (2014). The psychology of biological clocks: A new framework for the evolution of rhythm. In E. A. Cartmill, S. G. Roberts, & H. Lyn (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (pp. 262-269). Singapore: World Scientific.
  • Ravignani, A., Martins, M., & Fitch, W. T. (2014). Vocal learning, prosody, and basal ganglia: Don't underestimate their complexity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 37(6), 570-571. doi:10.1017/S0140525X13004184.

    Abstract

    In response to: Brain mechanisms of acoustic communication in humans and nonhuman primates: An evolutionary perspective Abstract: Ackermann et al.'s arguments in the target article need sharpening and rethinking at both mechanistic and evolutionary levels. First, the authors' evolutionary arguments are inconsistent with recent evidence concerning nonhuman animal rhythmic abilities. Second, prosodic intonation conveys much more complex linguistic information than mere emotional expression. Finally, human adults' basal ganglia have a considerably wider role in speech modulation than Ackermann et al. surmise.

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