Andrea Ravignani

Publications

Displaying 1 - 26 of 26
  • Anichini, M., De Heer Kloots, M., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Interactive rhythms in the wild, in the brain, and in silico. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74(3), 170-175. doi:10.1037/cep0000224.

    Abstract

    There are some historical divisions in methods, rationales, and purposes between studies on comparative cognition and behavioural ecology. In turn, the interaction between these two branches and studies from mathematics, computation and neuroscience is not usual. In this short piece, we attempt to build bridges among these disciplines. We present a series of interconnected vignettes meant to illustrate how a more interdisciplinary approach looks like when successful, and its advantages. Concretely, we focus on a recent topic, namely animal rhythms in interaction, studied under different approaches. We showcase 5 research efforts, which we believe successfully link 5 particular Scientific areas of rhythm research conceptualized as: Social neuroscience, Detailed rhythmic quantification, Ontogeny, Computational approaches and Spontaneous interactions. Our suggestions will hopefully spur a ‘Comparative rhythms in interaction’ field, which can integrate and capitalize on knowledge from zoology, comparative psychology, neuroscience, and computation.
  • De Boer, B., Thompson, B., Ravignani, A., & Boeckx, C. (2020). Analysis of mutation and fixation for language. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 56-58). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • De Boer, B., Thompson, B., Ravignani, A., & Boeckx, C. (2020). Evolutionary dynamics do not motivate a single-mutant theory of human language. Scientific Reports, 10: 451. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-57235-8.

    Abstract

    One of the most controversial hypotheses in cognitive science is the Chomskyan evolutionary conjecture that language arose instantaneously in humans through a single mutation. Here we analyze the evolutionary dynamics implied by this hypothesis, which has never been formalized before. The hypothesis supposes the emergence and fixation of a single mutant (capable of the syntactic operation Merge) during a narrow historical window as a result of frequency-independent selection under a huge fitness advantage in a population of an effective size no larger than ~15 000 individuals. We examine this proposal by combining diffusion analysis and extreme value theory to derive a probabilistic formulation of its dynamics. We find that although a macro-mutation is much more likely to go to fixation if it occurs, it is much more unlikely a priori than multiple mutations with smaller fitness effects. The most likely scenario is therefore one where a medium number of mutations with medium fitness effects accumulate. This precise analysis of the probability of mutations occurring and going to fixation has not been done previously in the context of the evolution of language. Our results cast doubt on any suggestion that evolutionary reasoning provides an independent rationale for a single-mutant theory of language.

    Additional information

    Supplementary material
  • Garcia, M., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Acoustic allometry and vocal learning in mammals. Biology Letters, 16: 20200081. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2020.0081.

    Abstract

    Acoustic allometry is the study of how animal vocalisations reflect their body size. A key aim of this research is to identify outliers to acoustic allometry principles and pinpoint the evolutionary origins of such outliers. A parallel strand of research investigates species capable of vocal learning, the experience-driven ability to produce novel vocal signals through imitation or modification of existing vocalisations. Modification of vocalizations is a common feature found when studying both acoustic allometry and vocal learning. Yet, these two fields have only been investigated separately to date. Here, we review and connect acoustic allometry and vocal learning across mammalian clades, combining perspectives from bioacoustics, anatomy and evolutionary biology. Based on this, we hypothesize that, as a precursor to vocal learning, some species might have evolved the capacity for volitional vocal modulation via sexual selection for ‘dishonest’ signalling. We provide preliminary support for our hypothesis by showing significant associations between allometric deviation and vocal learning in a dataset of 164 mammals. Our work offers a testable framework for future empirical research linking allometric principles with the evolution of vocal learning.
  • Garcia, M., Theunissen, F., Sèbe, F., Clavel, J., Ravignani, A., Marin-Cudraz, T., Fuchs, J., & Mathevon, N. (2020). Evolution of communication signals and information during species radiation. Nature Communications, 11: 4970. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-18772-3.

    Abstract

    Communicating species identity is a key component of many animal signals. However, whether selection for species recognition systematically increases signal diversity during clade radiation remains debated. Here we show that in woodpecker drumming, a rhythmic signal used during mating and territorial defense, the amount of species identity information encoded remained stable during woodpeckers’ radiation. Acoustic analyses and evolutionary reconstructions show interchange among six main drumming types despite strong phylogenetic contingencies, suggesting evolutionary tinkering of drumming structure within a constrained acoustic space. Playback experiments and quantification of species discriminability demonstrate sufficient signal differentiation to support species recognition in local communities. Finally, we only find character displacement in the rare cases where sympatric species are also closely related. Overall, our results illustrate how historical contingencies and ecological interactions can promote conservatism in signals during a clade radiation without impairing the effectiveness of information transfer relevant to inter-specific discrimination.
  • Geambasu, A., Toron, L., Ravignani, A., & Levelt, C. C. (2020). Rhythmic recursion? Human sensitivity to a Lindenmayer grammar with self-similar structure in a musical task. Music & Science. doi:10.1177%2F2059204320946615.

    Abstract

    Processing of recursion has been proposed as the foundation of human linguistic ability. Yet this ability may be shared with other domains, such as the musical or rhythmic domain. Lindenmayer grammars (L-systems) have been proposed as a recursive grammar for use in artificial grammar experiments to test recursive processing abilities, and previous work had shown that participants are able to learn such a grammar using linguistic stimuli (syllables). In the present work, we used two experimental paradigms (a yes/no task and a two-alternative forced choice) to test whether adult participants are able to learn a recursive Lindenmayer grammar composed of drum sounds. After a brief exposure phase, we found that participants at the group level were sensitive to the exposure grammar and capable of distinguishing the grammatical and ungrammatical test strings above chance level in both tasks. While we found evidence of participants’ sensitivity to a very complex L-system grammar in a non-linguistic, potentially musical domain, the results were not robust. We discuss the discrepancy within our results and with the previous literature using L-systems in the linguistic domain. Furthermore, we propose directions for future music cognition research using L-system grammars.
  • De Heer Kloots, M., Carlson, D., Garcia, M., Kotz, S., Lowry, A., Poli-Nardi, L., De Reus, K., Rubio-García, A., Sroka, M., Varola, M., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Rhythmic perception, production and interactivity in harbour and grey seals. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 59-62). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • Heinrich, T., Ravignani, A., & Hanke, F. H. (2020). Visual timing abilities of a harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) and a South African fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) for sub- and supra-second time intervals. Animal Cognition, 23(5), 851-859. doi:10.1007/s10071-020-01390-3.

    Abstract

    Timing is an essential parameter influencing many behaviours. A previous study demonstrated a high sensitivity of a phocid, the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina), in discriminating time intervals. In the present study, we compared the harbour seal’s timing abilities with the timing abilities of an otariid, the South African fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus). This comparison seemed essential as phocids and otariids differ in many respects and might, thus, also differ regarding their timing abilities. We determined time difference thresholds for sub- and suprasecond time intervals marked by a white circle on a black background displayed for a specific time interval on a monitor using a staircase method. Contrary to our expectation, the timing abilities of the fur seal and the harbour seal were comparable. Over a broad range of time intervals, 0.8–7 s in the fur seal and 0.8–30 s in the harbour seal, the difference thresholds followed Weber’s law. In this range, both animals could discriminate time intervals differing only by 12 % and 14 % on average. Timing might, thus be a fundamental cue for pinnipeds in general to be used in various contexts, thereby complementing information provided by classical sensory systems. Future studies will help to clarify if timing is indeed involved in foraging decisions or the estimation of travel speed or distance.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Hoeksema, N., Villanueva, S., Mengede, J., Salazar Casals, A., Rubio-García, A., Curcic-Blake, B., Vernes, S. C., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain: Bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 162-164). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • Jacoby, N., Margulis, E. H., Clayton, M., Hannon, E., Honing, H., Iversen, J., Klein, T. R., Mehr, S. A., Pearson, L., Peretz, I., Perlman, M., Polak, R., Ravignani, A., Savage, P. E., Steingo, G., Stevens, C. J., Trainor, L., Trehub, S., Veal, M., & Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2020). Cross-cultural work in music cognition: Challenges, insights, and recommendations. Music Perception, 37(3), 185-195. doi:10.1525/mp.2020.37.3.185.

    Abstract

    Many foundational questions in the psychology of music require cross-cultural approaches, yet the vast majority of work in the field to date has been conducted with Western participants and Western music. For cross-cultural research to thrive, it will require collaboration between people from different disciplinary backgrounds, as well as strategies for overcoming differences in assumptions, methods, and terminology. This position paper surveys the current state of the field and offers a number of concrete recommendations focused on issues involving ethics, empirical methods, and definitions of “music” and “culture.”
  • Ravignani, A., & Kotz, S. (2020). Breathing, voice and synchronized movement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(38), 23223-23224. doi:10.1073/pnas.2011402117.

    Additional information

    Pouw_etal_reply.pdf
  • Ravignani, A., Barbieri, C., Flaherty, M., Jadoul, Y., Lattenkamp, E. Z., Little, H., Martins, M., Mudd, K., & Verhoef, T. (Eds.). (2020). The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences. doi:10.17617/2.3190925.

    Additional information

    Link to pdf on EvoLang Website
  • De Reus, K., Carlson, D., Jadoul, Y., Lowry, A., Gross, S., Garcia, M., Salazar Casals, A., Rubio-García, A., Haas, C. E., De Boer, B., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Relationships between vocal ontogeny and vocal tract anatomy in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina). In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 63-66). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • Wilson, B., Spierings, M., Ravignani, A., Mueller, J. L., Mintz, T. H., Wijnen, F., Van der Kant, A., Smith, K., & Rey, A. (2020). Non‐adjacent dependency learning in humans and other animals. Topics in Cognitive Science, 12(3), 843-858. doi:10.1111/tops.12381.

    Abstract

    Learning and processing natural language requires the ability to track syntactic relationships between words and phrases in a sentence, which are often separated by intervening material. These nonadjacent dependencies can be studied using artificial grammar learning paradigms and structured sequence processing tasks. These approaches have been used to demonstrate that human adults, infants and some nonhuman animals are able to detect and learn dependencies between nonadjacent elements within a sequence. However, learning nonadjacent dependencies appears to be more cognitively demanding than detecting dependencies between adjacent elements, and only occurs in certain circumstances. In this review, we discuss different types of nonadjacent dependencies in language and in artificial grammar learning experiments, and how these differences might impact learning. We summarize different types of perceptual cues that facilitate learning, by highlighting the relationship between dependent elements bringing them closer together either physically, attentionally, or perceptually. Finally, we review artificial grammar learning experiments in human adults, infants, and nonhuman animals, and discuss how similarities and differences observed across these groups can provide insights into how language is learned across development and how these language‐related abilities might have evolved.
  • 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.

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