marler1970songontogeny - J ournal of Comparative and...

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Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology Monograph Vol. 71, No. 2, Part 2 May 1970 A COMPARATIVE APPROACH TO VOCAL LEARNING: SONG DEVELOPMENT IN WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS 1 PETER MAHLER 2 Rockejeller University and New York Zoological Society Unlike nonhuman primates and some other species used in attempts to con- dition vocal behavior, certain song birds display considerable facility at vocal imitation in the wild state. Species-specific characteristics of the song of the male white-crowned sparrow are normally acquired by learning from adults. Local song dialects result. Males raised in individual or group isolation de- veloped abnormal songs. Exposure to normal song during a critical period of 10-50 days of age resulted in normal song development and in repro- duction of the particular training dialect. Exposure to normal song during the 50-100 day age period shifted subsequent song development in a normal direction but details of the training song were not reproduced. Exposure be- fore 10 days and after 100 days of age had no effect. Song learning is selective in that exposure to songs of other species of 10-50 days of age had no effect on song development. Sensory rather than motor constraints seem to be responsible for the selectivity. To explain song development, an auditory template is postulated. At the start of the critical period the template is only a crude specification of normal song, but sufficient to exclude songs of other species. In training the specifications of the template become more precise. Vocalizations are matched to the template subsequently by auditory feedback. No extrinsic reinforcement seems to be necessary. Several analo- gies are drawn between song learning in white-crowned sparrows and speech development in children. In broaching the comparative investiga- cal to study the abilities of nonhuman tion of vocal learning it might seem logi- primates in this regard. was supported by grants from ™S approach has yielded results which, j. ino i e»c<ai uu. w 0.0 ouppui tc'-i uy g>i CUJLUD j.i i/j-u , I, • i j. • " • i i * the National Science Foundation and aided by though interesting _ in themselves, are in the Zoology Department, University of California, some respects disappointing. Although Berkeley, and many individuals, particularly Mar- chimpanzees and an orang-utan have been cia Kreith Miwako Tamura and Inger Bradbury. t ht to utter twQ Qr three wordg f hu _ Help in collecting and raising birds, analyzing data, 1, 1 IT -, .,, , criticizing and preparing the results for publica- man speech, the parallel With speech ac- tion was also given by Thomas Bever, Derry quisition in children is probably remote. Bogert, Kathryn Harpham, Jenny Gerard, Masa- The training required direct manipulation kazu Konishi, Eric Lenneberg, Marilyn Milligan, f tfa a r,imal's tnn<nip lin« iaw anrl James Mulligan, Keith Nelson, Fernando Notte- 01 lne ammal .
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marler1970songontogeny - J ournal of Comparative and...

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