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FW: Book Review - The Evolution of Communication

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: Danny Yee [SMTP:danny@ANATOMY.USYD.EDU.AU] Sent: Sunday, August 15, 1999 11:41 AM To:
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 1999
      -----Original Message-----
      From: Danny Yee [SMTP:danny@...]
      Sent: Sunday, August 15, 1999 11:41 AM
      To: ANTHRO-L@...
      Subject: Book Review - The Evolution of Communication

      An HTML version of this book review can be found at
      along with more than 450 other reviews
      title: The Evolution of Communication
      by: Marc D. Hauser
      publisher: The MIT Press 1997
      other: 760 pages, bibliography, index
      In _The Evolution of Communication_ Hauser approaches communication using
      the framework of Tinbergen, combining perspectives based on mechanism,
      ontogeny, function, and phylogeny. As he argues,
      a complete analysis of communication requires a richly comparative
      perspective that grapples with how communicative systems work
      (neurobiological, developmental, and cognitive processes), why there are
      both similarities and differences in design across species, and what the
      functional consequences of such design features are for an organism's
      survival and reproduction.
      Hauser separates mechanism into the neurobiological and the psychological
      and integrates phylogenetics with the other approaches, giving him four
      principal chapters-on neurobiological, ontogenetic, adaptive, and
      psychological design and communication.
      This is a huge scope, but Hauser restricts himself in order to allow for
      deeper analysis. He concentrates almost exclusively on visual and auditory
      modes of communication and phylogenetically on vertebrates. And he makes no
      attempt (despite a bibliography that runs to 75 dense pages) at
      comprehensiveness even there. Instead, he takes a few well-studied
      domains-mating calls in frogs and birds, echolocation in bats, squirrel and
      primate alarm calls, primate social communication, human language, and a few
      others-and presents key experimental results and theoretical frameworks in
      detail. Techniques and methodologies are covered where important.
      The approach spans many disciplines-neurobiology, child development,
      psychology, ethology, and linguistics, to name just a few-and one of
      Hauser's goals is to encourage inter-disciplinary cross-over by "reviewing
      research in areas that commonly exist in the intellectual equivalent of
      solitary confinement". So _The Evolution of Communication_, while
      technical, is aimed at people exploring beyond their own fields; it is also
      ideal for the informed general reader.
      The figures and diagrams are primitive and the halftones grainy, but _The
      Evolution of Communication_ is an excellent illustration of how this doesn't
      matter when one has the _right_ figures and halftones, properly captioned
      and integrated with the text. Ecumenical in approach but at the same time
      precise and rigorous in matters of detail, it is a work which deserves
      widespread recognition.


      %T The Evolution of Communication
      %A Marc D. Hauser
      %I The MIT Press
      %C Cambridge, Massachusetts
      %D 1997
      %O paperback, bibliography, index
      %G ISBN 0-262-58155-8
      %P xiii,760pp
      %U http://mitpress.mit.edu/book-home.tcl?isbn=0262581558
      %K biology, psychology, linguistics

      15 August 1999

      Copyright � 1999 Danny Yee (danny@...
      <mailto:danny@...> )

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