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Am Nat. 2005 Aug;166(2):231-45. Epub 2005 May 26.

Issues in the classification of multimodal communication signals.

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Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA.


Communication involves complex behavior in multiple sensory channels, or "modalities." We provide an overview of multimodal communication and its costs and benefits, place examples of signals and displays from an array of taxa, sensory systems, and functions into our signal classification system, and consider issues surrounding the categorization of multimodal signals. The broadest level of classification is between signals with redundant and nonredundant components, with finer distinctions in each category. We recommend that researchers gather information on responses to each component of a multimodal signal as well as the response to the signal as a whole. We discuss the choice of categories, whether to categorize signals on the basis of the signal or the response, and how to classify signals if data are missing. The choice of behavioral assay may influence the outcome, as may the context of the communicative event. We also consider similarities and differences between multimodal and unimodal composite signals and signals that are sequentially, rather than simultaneously, multimodal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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