Scientific article
Open access

Humans recognize affective cues in primate vocalizations: acoustic and phylogenetic perspectives

Published inScientific reports, vol. 13, no. 1
Publication date2023-07-05
First online date2023-07-05

Humans are adept at extracting affective information from vocalizations of humans and other animals. However, the extent to which human recognition of vocal affective cues of other species is due to cross-taxa similarities in acoustic parameters or the phylogenetic closeness between species is currently unclear. To address this, we first analyzed acoustic variation in 96 affective vocalizations, taken from agonistic and affiliative contexts, of humans and three other primates—rhesus macaques ( Macaca mulatta ), chimpanzees and bonobos ( Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus ). Acoustic analyses revealed that agonistic chimpanzee and bonobo vocalizations were similarly distant from agonistic human voices, but chimpanzee affiliative vocalizations were significantly closer to human affiliative vocalizations, than those of bonobos, indicating a potential derived vocal evolution in the bonobo lineage. Second, we asked 68 human participants to categorize and also discriminate vocalizations based on their presumed affective content. Results showed that participants reliably categorized human and chimpanzee vocalizations according to affective content, but not bonobo threat vocalizations nor any macaque vocalizations. Participants discriminated all species calls above chance level except for threat calls by bonobos and macaques. Our results highlight the importance of both phylogenetic and acoustic parameter level explanations in cross-species affective perception, drawing a more complex picture to the origin of vocal emotions.

  • UK Research and Innovation - ORA (Round 5). Production and perception of expressions of emotions in humans and their closest relatives [ES/S015612/1]
  • European Commission - What are the origins of empathy? A comparative developmental investigation [802979]
  • Swiss National Science Foundation - [CR13I1_162720]
  • Fondation Ernst et Lucie Schmidheiny -
Citation (ISO format)
DEBRACQUE, Coralie et al. Humans recognize affective cues in primate vocalizations: acoustic and phylogenetic perspectives. In: Scientific reports, 2023, vol. 13, n° 1. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-37558-3
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal2045-2322

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