october, 2016

04oct1:00 pm2:00 pmAtypical birdsong and artificial languages provide insights into how communication systems are shaped by learning, use and transmissionDr Olga Feher


Event Details



I will present experimental findings in zebra finches and humans that make use of abnormal song and atypical linguistic input to study processes shaping communication systems: individual learning, social interaction, and cultural transmission. Atypical input places increased learning and communicative pressure on learners, so exploring how they respond to this type of input provides a particularly clear picture of the biases and constraints at work during learning and use. Furthermore, simulating the cultural transmission of these unnatural communication systems in the laboratory informs us about how learning and social biases influence the structure of communication systems in the long run. Findings based on these methods suggest fundamental similarities in the basic social–cognitive mechanisms underlying vocal learning in birds and humans.

Olga is a research assistant in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the cultural evolution of birdsong and language, with a particular interest in social influences on the learning of song and language.

If anyone would like to meet with Olga or join us for lunch after the seminar please contact Ellen Garland.

Olga Feher’s website


(Tuesday) 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Dyer's Brae Seminar Room

Dyers Brae, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Greenside Place, Fife, KY16 9TH, UK


Ellen Garland & Christian Rutzecg5@st-andrews.ac.uk, cr68@st-andrews.ac.uk Dyers Brae, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9TH, UK