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Interaction project

What drove primate social communication into human language with its specific adaptation for extensive information exchange? Human cooperative interactions go far beyond what is seen in other mammals, where communications typically function to control the partner’s behavior in one-to-one interactions. The ability to use signals for cooperative interactions is a key prerequisite for language, and targeted comparative research across species is required to trace its mechanisms and evolution. 

The overall vision of this project is to generate data that are directly comparable across species with varying degrees of cooperativeness to understand the evolutionary push towards the language-ready brain. In a broad phylogenetic approach, we try to understand the evolutionary conditions that may have favored high information content of vocal repertoires, a prerequisite for communicative complexity.

WP Information Throughput

We have evidence that high cooperation and interdependence may have acted as evolutionary drivers of advanced communication. Can we corroborate this proposed link in the wider phylogenetic tree, specifically in other cooperatively breeding species? What are the distributions of information in different human languages? What is the role of other forms of complex social life that have long been suspected to drive the evolution of communication? How are the neuroanatomical structures essential for social functioning, notably the amygdala, involved in cooperative and communicative decision-making? What is special about human hyper-cooperation and which aspects are causes and consequences of human language? 

Social Competence Task
PIs: Grandjean, Burkart, Schaer, Zuberbühler; Collaborating PIs: Bavelier, Bangerter, Bshary, Manser; Senior Advisor: van Schaik

Information Load Task
PIs: Bickel, Hahnloser, Furrer, Stoll; Collaborating PIs: Sennrich, Burkart, Stadler, Townsend, Zuberbühler, Manser, Dellwo; Senior Researcher: Cathcart; Senior Advisor: van Schaik

Hyper Cooperation Task
PIs: Bangerter, Bshary, Mazzarella; Collaborating PIs: Clément, Mansfield

WP Information Integration

It is well established that speech, and mammalian vocal signals more generally, not only encode referential content, but also information about speaker identity, arousal or attitude. Moreover, speech is accompanied by visual signals, such as posture, facial expressions, articulatory movements or gestures. This set of influences make up a significant part of the context in which communicative signals are transmitted, and they influence what listeners will infer from those signals. One of the main goals of this WP is to develop brain imaging protocoles to explore the neural integration mechanisms of multimodal signals in naturalistic interactions. In parallel,we examine how the environment affects vocal production in non-humans.

Neural Integration Task
PIs: Hervais-Adelman, Dellwo; Collaborating PIs: Manser, Magimai-Doss, Grandjean, Giroud, Meyer;

Hyperscanning Task
PIs: Meyer, Giroud; Collaborating PIs: Dellwo, Hervais-Adelman, Daum

Clinical Intervention Task
PIs: Schwartz, Laganaro; Collaborating PIs: Borghesani

Behavioural Integration Task
PIs: Manser, Grandjean, Magimai-Doss; Collaborating PIs:, Dellwo, Hervais-Adelman, Hahnloser, Zuberbühler, Townsend;