Categorical Perception Of Conspecific Communication Sounds By Japanese Macaques. Macaca Fuscata

Brad May, David B. Moody, William C. Stebbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Field studies indicate that Japanese macaque {Macaca fuscata) communication signals vary with the social situation in which they occur [S. Green, “Variation of vocal pattern with social situation in the Japanese monkey {Macaca fuscata): A field study,” in Primate Behavior, edited by L. A. Rosenblum (Academic, New York, 1975), Vol. 4]. A significant acoustic property of the contact calls produced by these primates is the temporal position of a frequency peak within the vocalization, that is, an inflection from rising to falling frequency [May et al, “Significant features of Japanese macaque communication sounds: A psychophysical study,” Anim. Behav. 36, 1432-1444 (1988)]. The experiments reported here are based on the hypothesis that Japanese macaques derive meaning from this temporally graded feature by parceling the acoustic variation inherent in natural contact calls into two functional categories, and thus exhibit behavior that is analogous to the categorical perception of speech sounds by humans. To test this hypothesis, Japanese macaques were trained to classify natural contact calls by performing operant responses that signified either an early or late frequency peak position. Then, the subjects were tested in a series of experiments that required them to generalize this behavior to synthetic calls representing a continuum of peak positions. Demonstration of the classical perceptual effects noted for human listeners suggests that categorical perception reflects a principle of auditory information processing that influences the perception of sounds in the communication systems not only of humans, but of animals as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-847
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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