Andrea Ravignani

Publications

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10
  • 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.

    Additional information

    Supplementary information Raw data
  • 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. (2015). Evolving perceptual biases for antisynchrony: A form of temporal coordination beyond synchrony. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 9: 339. doi:10.3389/fnins.2015.00339.
  • Ravignani, A., Westphal-Fitch, G., Aust, U., Schlumpp, M. M., & Fitch, W. T. (2015). More than one way to see it: Individual heuristics in avian visual computation. Cognition, 143, 13-24. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.05.021.

    Abstract

    Comparative pattern learning experiments investigate how different species find regularities in sensory input, providing insights into cognitive processing in humans and other animals. Past research has focused either on one species’ ability to process pattern classes or different species’ performance in recognizing the same pattern, with little attention to individual and species-specific heuristics and decision strategies. We trained and tested two bird species, pigeons (Columba livia) and kea (Nestor notabilis, a parrot species), on visual patterns using touch-screen technology. Patterns were composed of several abstract elements and had varying degrees of structural complexity. We developed a model selection paradigm, based on regular expressions, that allowed us to reconstruct the specific decision strategies and cognitive heuristics adopted by a given individual in our task. Individual birds showed considerable differences in the number, type and heterogeneity of heuristic strategies adopted. Birds’ choices also exhibited consistent species-level differences. Kea adopted effective heuristic strategies, based on matching learned bigrams to stimulus edges. Individual pigeons, in contrast, adopted an idiosyncratic mix of strategies that included local transition probabilities and global string similarity. Although performance was above chance and quite high for kea, no individual of either species provided clear evidence of learning exactly the rule used to generate the training stimuli. Our results show that similar behavioral outcomes can be achieved using dramatically different strategies and highlight the dangers of combining multiple individuals in a group analysis. These findings, and our general approach, have implications for the design of future pattern learning experiments, and the interpretation of comparative cognition research more generally.

    Additional information

    Supplementary data
  • Ravignani, A., & Sonnweber, R. (2015). Measuring teaching through hormones and time series analysis: Towards a comparative framework. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, 40-41. doi:10.1017/S0140525X14000806.

    Abstract

    In response to: How to learn about teaching: An evolutionary framework for the study of teaching behavior in humans and other animals Arguments about the nature of teaching have depended principally on naturalistic observation and some experimental work. Additional measurement tools, and physiological variations and manipulations can provide insights on the intrinsic structure and state of the participants better than verbal descriptions alone: namely, time-series analysis, and examination of the role of hormones and neuromodulators on the behaviors of teacher and pupil.
  • Sonnweber, R., Ravignani, A., & Fitch, W. T. (2015). Non-adjacent visual dependency learning in chimpanzees. Animal Cognition, 18(3), 733-745. doi:10.1007/s10071-015-0840-x.

    Abstract

    Humans have a strong proclivity for structuring and patterning stimuli: Whether in space or time, we tend to mentally order stimuli in our environment and organize them into units with specific types of relationships. A crucial prerequisite for such organization is the cognitive ability to discern and process regularities among multiple stimuli. To investigate the evolutionary roots of this cognitive capacity, we tested chimpanzees—which, along with bonobos, are our closest living relatives—for simple, variable distance dependency processing in visual patterns. We trained chimpanzees to identify pairs of shapes either linked by an arbitrary learned association (arbitrary associative dependency) or a shared feature (same shape, feature-based dependency), and to recognize strings where items related to either of these ways occupied the first (leftmost) and the last (rightmost) item of the stimulus. We then probed the degree to which subjects generalized this pattern to new colors, shapes, and numbers of interspersed items. We found that chimpanzees can learn and generalize both types of dependency rules, indicating that the ability to encode both feature-based and arbitrary associative regularities over variable distances in the visual domain is not a human prerogative. Our results strongly suggest that these core components of human structural processing were already present in our last common ancestor with chimpanzees.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Sonnweber, R. S., Ravignani, A., Stobbe, N., Schiestl, G., Wallner, B., & Fitch, W. T. (2015). Rank‐dependent grooming patterns and cortisol alleviation in Barbary macaques. American Journal of Primatology, 77(6), 688-700. doi:10.1002/ajp.22391.

    Abstract

    Flexibly adapting social behavior to social and environmental challenges helps to alleviate glucocorticoid (GC) levels, which may have positive fitness implications for an individual. For primates, the predominant social behavior is grooming. Giving grooming to others is particularly efficient in terms of GC mitigation. However, grooming is confined by certain limitations such as time constraints or restricted access to other group members. For instance, dominance hierarchies may impact grooming partner availability in primate societies. Consequently specific grooming patterns emerge. In despotic species focusing grooming activity on preferred social partners significantly ameliorates GC levels in females of all ranks. In this study we investigated grooming patterns and GC management in Barbary macaques, a comparably relaxed species. We monitored changes in grooming behavior and cortisol (C) for females of different ranks. Our results show that the C‐amelioration associated with different grooming patterns had a gradual connection with dominance hierarchy: while higher‐ranking individuals showed lowest urinary C measures when they focused their grooming on selected partners within their social network, lower‐ranking individuals expressed lowest C levels when dispersing their grooming activity evenly across their social partners. We argue that the relatively relaxed social style of Barbary macaque societies allows individuals to flexibly adapt grooming patterns, which is associated with rank‐specific GC management. Am. J. Primatol. 77:688–700, 2015

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