Constraints and flexibility during vocal development: Insights from marmoset monkeys

Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2018 Jun;21:27-32. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2017.11.015. Epub 2017 Dec 6.


Human vocal development is typically conceived as a sequence of two processes-an early maturation phase where vocal sounds change as a function of body growth ("constraints") followed by a period during which social experience can influence vocal sound production ("flexibility"). However, studies of other behaviors (e.g., locomotion) reveal that growth and experience are interactive throughout development. As it turns out, vocal development is not exceptional; it is also the on-going result of the interplay between an infant's growing biological system of production (the body and the nervous system) and experience with caregivers. Here, we review work on developing marmoset monkeys - a species that exhibits strikingly similar vocal developmental processes to those of prelinguistic human infants - that demonstrates how constraints and flexibility are parallel and interactive processes.