Categorization of vocal and nonvocal stimuli in Guinea baboons (Papio papio)

Fatima‐Ezzahra Ennaji, Joël Fagot, & Pascal Belin

American Journal of Primatology (in press)@HAL

Categorization of vocal sounds apart from other sounds is one of the key abilities in human voice processing, but whether this ability is present in other animals, particularly nonhuman primates, remains unclear. In the present study, 25 socially housed Guinea baboons (Papio papio) were tested on a vocal/nonvocal categorization task using Go/Nogo paradigm implemented on freely accessible automated learning devices. Three individuals from the group successfully learned to sort Grunt vocalizations from nonvocal sounds, and they generalized to new stimuli from the two categories, indicating that some baboons have the ability to develop open-ended categories in the auditory domain. Contrary to our hypothesis based on the human literature, these monkeys learned the nonvocal category faster than the Grunt category. Moreover, they failed to generalize their classification to new classes of conspecific vocalizations (wahoo, bark, yak, and copulation calls), and they categorized human vocalizations in the nonvocal category, suggesting that they had failed to represent the task as a vocal versus nonvocal categorization problem. Thus, our results do not confirm the existence of a separate perceptual category for conspecific vocalizations in baboons. Interestingly, the three successful baboons are the youngest of the group, with less training in visual tasks, which supports previous reports of age and learning history as crucial factors in auditory laboratory experiments.

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