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This project will investigate the cognitive underpinnings of language, music and visual art in humans, and directly compare these underpinnings with pattern perception abilities in nonhuman animals. The goals are comparative in two senses: to determine the degree to which art, music and language share similar (or identical) processing mechanisms (comparison within our species); and to determine the degree to which these processing mechanisms are shared with other species. The basis for these comparisons will be a rigorous, mathematically defined theoretical framework (formal language theory) combined with innovative new empirical testing methods grounded in this theory (artificial grammar learning). The overarching goal - to uncover a shared computational basis underlying diverse human artistic and linguistic accomplishments - combined with new methodological innovations allowing us to explore the extent to which this basis is uniquely human or shared with other species, makes this an extremely wide-reaching and ambitious proposal, which will have ramifications throughout the cognitive sciences and the humanities if successful.
Department of Cognitive Biology
University of Vienna