Which melodic universals emerge from repeated signaling games?: A Note on Lumaca and Baggio (2017)
Ravignani, A., & Verhoef, T.
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.
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
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
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.