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New article in Acta Ethologica

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Subject: New article in Acta Ethologica
From: "Sonja Amoser" <>
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2007 08:13:46 +0200
Zhanna Reznikova (2007): Dialog with black box: using Information
Theory to study animal language behaviour. Acta Ethol., 10/1, 1-12.

Abstract: In this review, three main experimental approaches for
studying animal language behaviour are compared: (1) direct decoding
of animals' communication, (2) the use of intermediary languages to
communicate with animals and (3) application of ideas and methods of
the Information Theory for studying quantitative characteristics of
animal communication. Each of the three methodological approaches has
its specific power and specific limitations. Deciphering animals'
signals reveals a complex picture of natural communication in its
evolutionary perspective but only fragmentary because of many
methodological barriers, among which low repeatability of standard
living situations seems to be a bottleneck. Language-training
experiments are of great help for discovering potentials of animal
language behaviour but leaves characteristics of their natural
communications unclear. The use of the methods of Information Theory
is based on measuring the time duration that animals spend on
transmitting messages of definite information content and
complexity. This approach, although does not reveal the nature of
animals' signals, provides a new dimension for studying important
characteristics of natural communication systems, which have not been
available before. First of all, this approach enables explorers of
animals' language behaviour to obtain knowledge just about the ability
of subjects for transferring meaningful messages. Besides, the
important properties of animal communication and intelligence can be
evaluated such as the rate of information transmission, the complexity
of transferred information and potential flexibility of communication

Kind regards


University of Vienna, Dept. of Behavioural Biology
Sonja Amoser
PhD Student, Research Associate

Althanstrasse 14
1090 Vienna
tel: +43 (1) 4277 54467
fax: +43 (1) 4277 54506
mobile: +43 (664) 500 61 06

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