Measuring rhythms of vocal interactions: A proof of principle in harbour seal pups
Rhythmic patterns in interactive contexts characterize human behaviours such as conversational turn-taking. These timed patterns are also present in other animals, and often described as rhythm. Understanding fine-grained temporal adjustments in interaction requires complementary quantitative methodologies. Here, we showcase how vocal interactive rhythmicity in a non-human animal can be quantified using a multi-method approach. We record vocal interactions in harbour seal pups (Phoca vitulina) under controlled conditions. We analyse these data by combining analytical approaches, namely categorical rhythm analysis, circular statistics and time series analyses. We test whether pups' vocal rhythmicity varies across behavioural contexts depending on the absence or presence of a calling partner. Four research questions illustrate which analytical approaches are complementary versus orthogonal. For our data, circular statistics and categorical rhythms suggest that a calling partner affects a pup's call timing. Granger causality suggests that pups predictively adjust their call timing when interacting with a real partner. Lastly, the ADaptation and Anticipation Model estimates statistical parameters for a potential mechanism of temporal adaptation and anticipation. Our analytical complementary approach constitutes a proof of concept; it shows feasibility in applying typically unrelated techniques to seals to quantify vocal rhythmic interactivity across behavioural contexts.
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Publication typeJournal article