Nicolas Claidière
Laboratoire de psychologie cognitive
Aix-Marseille University, CNRS
13331 Marseille, France

The baboon: A model for the study of language evolution

Fagot, J., Boë, L.-J., Berthomier, F., Claidière, N., Malassis, R., Meguerditchian, A., . . . Montant, M. (2019). The baboon: A model for the study of language evolution. Journal of Human Evolution, 126, 39-50.

Abstract: Comparative research on the origins of human language often focuses on a limited number of language related cognitive functions or anatomical structures that are compared across species. The underlying assumption of this approach is that a single or a limited number of factors may crucially explain how language appeared in the human lineage. Another potentially fruitful approach is to consider human language as the result of a (unique) assemblage of multiple cognitive and anatomical components, some of which are present in other species. This paper is a first step in that direction. It focuses on the baboon, a non-human primate that has been studied extensively for years, including several brain, anatomical, cognitive and cultural dimensions that are involved in human language. This paper presents recent data collected on baboons regarding (1) a selection of domain-general cognitive functions that are core functions for language, (2) vocal production, (3) gestural production and cerebral lateralization, and (4) cumulative culture. In all these domains, it shows that the baboons share with humans many cognitive or brain mechanisms which are central for language. Because of the multidimensionality of the knowledge accumulated on the baboon, that species is an excellent nonhuman primate model for the study of the evolutionary origins of language.

The repeatability of cognitive performance: a meta-analysis

Cauchoix, M., Chow, P. K. Y., van Horik, J. O., Atance, C. M., Barbeau, E. J., Barragan-Jason, G., . . . Morand-Ferron, J. (2018). The repeatability of cognitive performance: a meta-analysis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373(1756). doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0281

Abstract: Selection acts on heritable individual variation in behaviours. Both behavioural and cognitive processes play important roles in mediating an individual’s interactions with their environment. Yet, while there is a vast literature on repeatable individual differences in behaviour, relatively little is known about the repeatability of cognitive performance. To further our understanding of the evolution of cognition we gathered 44 datasets on individual performances of 25 species
60 and used meta-analysis to evaluate whether cognitive performance is repeatable across six animal classes. We assessed repeatability (R) in performance (1) on the same task presented at different time intervals (temporal repeatability), and (2) on different tasks that measure the same putative cognitive ability (contextual repeatability). We also addressed whether R estimates are influenced by seven extrinsic factors (moderators): type of cognitive task, type of measurement, delay between tasks, origin of the subjects, experimental context, taxonomic class and if the R value was published or unpublished. We found support for both temporal and contextual repeatability of individual variation in cognitive performance, with significant mean R estimates ranging between 0.15 and 0.28. R estimates were mostly influenced by the type of cognitive performance measures and the fact that R values was published, none of the other moderators showed consistent and significant impacts on repeatability estimates. Our overall findings highlight the widespread occurrence of consistent inter-individual variation in cognition which, like behaviour, may have fitness implications.

Assessment of Social Cognition in Non-human Primates Using a Network of Test Systems