Andrea Ravignani

Publications

Displaying 1 - 17 of 17
  • 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.
  • 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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