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.
  • 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.

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