Communication intra-/inter-species , Relationships, Cognition, Emotions (CIRCE)


CIRCE team studies the link between communication, sociality, cognition and emotion, at the intra- and interspecific levels.

Our research program focuses on vocal and visual communication signals as key elements of social life, and on the link between perception, cognition and welfare, with songbirds (starlings), marine mammals (dolphins) and terrestrial mammals (Equids, Canines, Felids, hyraxes), including human (typical and atypical development) and non-human (New and Old-world monkeys, great apes) primates as key models.

In the interest of a rich comparative approach, we are studying a wide variety of species that differ to a greater or lesser extent in phylogenetic positioning, complexity of social life, habitat and communication modality. Social exchange of information is studied both in the field and under controlled conditions, and inter-species aspects focus on human-animal relationships (various contexts: home, various equestrian sites, animal mediation, service dogs). We are interested in the four stages of sociality defined by Hinde (1979): individual, interaction, relationship and group; but also in the "pseudo-social" environment for the relationship between humans and domestic or captive animals.

Our projects aim both to provide answers to major and current questions of basic research (evolution of language, vocal flexibility, brain plasticity, social cognition, intentionality, emotional processes) and to respond to important societal issues (animal mediation, welfare, equestrian practices, maternity practices). Particular attention is devoted to methodological developments for a modern and innovative ethology (use of biologgers for example) with animals free to move in their daily life conditions.

Main research topics

1 – Communication signals: the core of social life

1.1 Acoustic production reflects the internal state
1.2 Acoustic coding of individual and social characteristics
1.3 Social functions of communication signals
1.4 Audience effect, emotional contagion and empathy
1.5 The sequential and multimodal dimension of intentional communication
1.7 The coevolution between social complexity and communication complexity
1.7 The origins of language (acoustic plasticity, social learning, semantics, syntax,
conversational rules)

2. Linking Perception, Cognition et Welfare

2.1 Plastic perceptual processes
2.2 The structure of attention: individual, species-specific differences and modulating factors
2.3 The representation of the human by the animal
2.4 Animal mediation (autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, support of seniors...)
2.5 The link between early experiences, lifestyles and welfare (assessment, remediation