Two-way conversations, similar to the ones that humans engage in, occur throughout the animal kingdom.
2-Way Communication In The Animal Kingdom
Taking turns during conversation is one of the key features that makes human language different from the noises produced by other animals. Animals, however, also take turns during a conversation.
A 2016 study suggested that bats use a language to communicate and convey things to each other. Another study also suggested that the clicks and whistles that dolphins use allow them to convey messages to one another. Sperm whales have also been observed to use special dialect when communicating with each other.
In the new study published in journal Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers showed that many aspects of human conversations are similar to those of other species in the animal kingdom.
Researchers conducted a large-scale review of studies on turn-taking behavior in animal communications by analyzing the findings of hundreds of animal studies.
Although there have been many studies on the turn-taking behavior in animals, scientists still know little about it, partly because of fragmented literature that makes rigorous cross-species comparisons impossible.
Study researcher Robin Kendrick, from the University of York, said that the similarities between animal and human communication need to be tested to determine if they convey anything that has similar meaning,
"By making these analogies to human interaction, it actually opens up a lot of possibilities for investigating things that actually haven't been studied in animal communication yet," Kendrick said.
Timing Is Key Feature In Turn-Taking Communication
Kendrick and colleagues highlighted timing as a key feature of turn-taking communication in both human and animals.
Evidence showed that the rumbling of the elephants, the whistles of dolphins, and the soft chirping of naked mole rats all follow "overlap avoidance" in two-way conversations.
Some species, such as songbirds, are impatient chatterers that wait less than 50 milliseconds to "reply" during a conversation. Others, such as the sperm whales exchange clicks with a gap of about two seconds between turns. Humans, on the other hand, have gaps of around 200 milliseconds between turns during conversations.
The researchers said that comparing the turn-taking behavior of different species may help shed light on the evolution of language.
"An unprecedented, systematic comparative approach will empower us to test whether cooperative turn-taking represents the most ancient infrastructure of the language system and has been the 'small change' that made a big difference in human history," the researchers wrote in their study.