The evolution of social timing

Verga, L., Kotz, S. A., & Ravignani, A. (2023). The evolution of social timing. Physics of Life Reviews, 46, 131-151. doi:10.1016/j.plrev.2023.06.006.
Sociality and timing are tightly interrelated in human interaction as seen in turn-taking or synchronised dance movements. Sociality and timing also show in communicative acts of other species that might be pleasurable, but also necessary for survival. Sociality and timing often co-occur, but their shared phylogenetic trajectory is unknown: How, when, and why did they become so tightly linked? Answering these questions is complicated by several constraints; these include the use of divergent operational definitions across fields and species, the focus on diverse mechanistic explanations (e.g., physiological, neural, or cognitive), and the frequent adoption of anthropocentric theories and methodologies in comparative research. These limitations hinder the development of an integrative framework on the evolutionary trajectory of social timing and make comparative studies not as fruitful as they could be. Here, we outline a theoretical and empirical framework to test contrasting hypotheses on the evolution of social timing with species-appropriate paradigms and consistent definitions. To facilitate future research, we introduce an initial set of representative species and empirical hypotheses. The proposed framework aims at building and contrasting evolutionary trees of social timing toward and beyond the crucial branch represented by our own lineage. Given the integration of cross-species and quantitative approaches, this research line might lead to an integrated empirical-theoretical paradigm and, as a long-term goal, explain why humans are such socially coordinated animals.
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