Perceptual specializations for processing species-specific vocalizations in the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How humans and animals segregate sensory information into discrete, behaviorally meaningful categories is one of the hallmark questions in neuroscience. Much of the research around this topic in the auditory system has centered around human speech perception, in which categorical processes result in an enhanced sensitivity for acoustically meaningful differences and a reduced sensitivity for nonmeaningful distinctions. Much less is known about whether nonhuman primates process their species-specific vocalizations in a similar manner. We address this question in the common marmoset, a small arboreal New World primate with a rich vocal repertoire produced across a range of behavioral contexts. We first show that marmosets perceptually categorize their vocalizations in ways that correspond to previously defined call types for this species. Next, we show that marmosets are differentially sensitive to changes in particular acoustic features of their most common call types and that these sensitivity differences are matched to the population statistics of their vocalizations in ways that likely maximize category formation. Finally, we show that marmosets are less sensitive to changes in these acoustic features when within the natural range of variability of their calls, which possibly reflects perceptual specializations which maintain existing call categories. These findings suggest specializations for categorical vocal perception in a New World primate species and pave the way for future studies examining their underlying neural mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2221756120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2023


  • categorical
  • marmoset
  • perception
  • primate
  • vocalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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