M. J. Owren
Visual artificial grammar learning by rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta): exploring the role of grammar complexity and sequence lengthdoi.org
Animal Cognition 21:267-284, 2018
Humans and nonhuman primates can learn about the organization of stimuli in the environment using implicit sequential pattern learning capabilities. However, most previous artificial grammar learning studies with nonhuman primates have involved relatively simple grammars and ...MORE ⇓
Humans and nonhuman primates can learn about the organization of stimuli in the environment using implicit sequential pattern learning capabilities. However, most previous artificial grammar learning studies with nonhuman primates have involved relatively simple grammars and short input sequences. The goal in the current experiments was to assess the learning capabilities of monkeys on an artificial grammar-learning task that was more complex than most others previously used with nonhumans. Three experiments were conducted using a joystick-based, symmetrical-response serial reaction time task in which two monkeys were exposed to grammar-generated sequences at sequence lengths of four in Experiment 1, six in Experiment 2, and eight in Experiment 3. Over time, the monkeys came to respond faster to the sequences generated from the artificial grammar compared to random versions. In a subsequent generalization phase, subjects generalized their knowledge to novel sequences, responding significantly faster to novel instances of sequences produced using the familiar grammar compared to those constructed using an unfamiliar grammar. These results reveal that rhesus monkeys can learn and generalize the statistical structure inherent in an artificial grammar that is as complex as some used with humans, for sequences up to eight items long. These findings are discussed in relation to whether or not rhesus macaques and other primate species possess implicit sequence learning abilities that are similar to those that humans draw upon to learn natural language grammar.
A chimpanzee recognizes synthetic speech with significantly reduced acoustic cues to phonetic contentdoi.orgPDF
Current Biology 21(14):1210--1214, 2011
A long-standing debate concerns whether humans are specialized for speech perception [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7], which some researchers argue is demonstrated by the ability to understand synthetic speech with significantly reduced acoustic cues to phonetic content [2, 3, 4 and 7]. ...MORE ⇓
A long-standing debate concerns whether humans are specialized for speech perception [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7], which some researchers argue is demonstrated by the ability to understand synthetic speech with significantly reduced acoustic cues to phonetic content [2, 3, 4 and 7]. We tested a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) that recognizes 128 spoken words [ 8 and 9], asking whether she could understand such speech. Three experiments presented 48 individual words, with the animal selecting a corresponding visuographic symbol from among four alternatives. Experiment 1 tested spectrally reduced, noise-vocoded (NV) synthesis, originally developed to simulate input received by human cochlear-implant users . Experiment 2 tested “impossibly unspeechlike”  sine-wave (SW) synthesis, which reduces speech to just three moving tones . Although receiving only intermittent and noncontingent reward, the chimpanzee performed well above chance level, including when hearing synthetic versions for the first time. Recognition of SW words was least accurate but improved in experiment 3 when natural words in the same session were rewarded. The chimpanzee was more accurate with NV than SW versions, as were 32 human participants hearing these items. The chimpanzee's ability to spontaneously recognize acoustically reduced synthetic words suggests that experience rather than specialization is critical for speech-perception capabilities that some have suggested are uniquely human [ 12, 13 and 14].
Redefining animal signaling: influence versus information in communicationPDF
Biology and Philosophy 25(5):755--780, 2010
Abstract Researchers typically define animal signaling as morphology or behavior specialized for transmitting encoded information from a signaler to a perceiver. Although intuitively appealing, this conception is inherently metaphorical and leaves concepts of ...
What do animal signals mean?PDF
Animal Behaviour 78(2):233--240, 2009
Animal communication studies often use analogies to human language and related constructs such as information encoding and transfer. This commonality is evident even when research goals are very different, for example when primate vocalizations are ...
Standing evolution on its head: The uneasy role of evolutionary theory in comparative cognition and communication
Reviews in Anthropology 29:55-69, 2000
King, Barbara J. The Information Continuum: Evolution of Social Information Transfer in Monkeys, Apes, and Hominids. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press, 1994. xii+ 166 pp. including references and index. 17.50paper.Parker,SueTaylor,Mitchell,RobertW.,andBoccia,MariaL. ...