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J Comp Psychol. 1990 Mar;104(1):20-8.

Acoustic classification of alarm calls by vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) and humans (Homo sapiens): I. Natural calls.

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Indiana University.


A 2-choice, operant-conditioning-based classification procedure was developed in which vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) categorized species-typical snake and eagle alarm calls recorded from individually identified free-ranging animals. After preliminary training with a pair of calls from a single animal, 2 vervets were tested with novel exemplars produced by a variety of callers. Experiment 1 combined testing with continued training in routine classification of 14 new calls. In Experiment 2, the subjects were tested with 48 novel calls in rapid succession. Human (Homo sapiens) control subjects participated in the first study without extended preliminary training. Monkey and human subjects both showed immediate transfer to classification of unfamiliar alarm calls, despite variations both in voice characteristics and reproduction quality.

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