Olga Feher




Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Warwick
Room: H125, Humanities Building
Coventry
CV4 7AL






Email: o.feher@warwick.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (024) 765 73127
Twitter: @OlgaFeher


Research Interests

I am interested in the cultural evolution of birdsong and language, with a particular interest in how social interactions influence the cultural evolution of vocal communication systems. During my PhD at the City College of New York, I studied how zebra finch wild-type song with abnormal characteristics evolves species-typical features over a few generations in different social environments. As a post-doc I ran further experiments to investigate the necessary social requirements for the appearance of wild-type song features by self-tutoring juvenile zebra finches. My experiments used isolate birds who grew up without tutoring and invented their own songs. 

After my second post-doc, I switched study organisms and moved my focus from birds to humans and from birdsong to human language. As a Newton Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, I began looking at how random variation which is rare in natural languages, is eliminated as a result of learning, communicative interactions and cultural transmission. Now, as a member of the Psychology Department at Warwick, I am establishing my own lab with plans to look further into social and communicative mechanisms impact on cultural evolution in humans and birds (for the moment only in collaboration with birdsong researchers).


Outreach

June 28th 2016: I presented my research at the British Academy Soirée in London sponsored by the BA.
http://www.britac.ac.uk/soiree2016

My research was featured at the Museum Lates in the London Science Museum in June 2015. The theme was The Next Big Thing, a collaboration between the Science Museum and the Royal Society to showcase research undertaken by RS fellows. I and PhD students from the Centre for Language Evolution at Edinburgh University ran demonstrations on how transmission leads to different outcomes in a linguistic versus a non-linguistic task. It featured aliens, carrots and celery, and it was lots of fun!

Publications

Fehér, O., Ritt, N., & Smith, K. (2017). Asymmetric accommodation during interaction leads to the regularisation of linguistic variants. PsyArXiv Preprints. doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/YBNQ9 

Fehér, O., Ljubicic, I., Suzuki, K., Okanoya, K. & Tchernichovski, O. (2017). Statistical learning in songbirds: from self-tutoring to song culture. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0053.

Smith, K., Perfors, A., Fehér, O., Samara, A., Swoboda, K., & Wonnacott, E. (2017). Language learning, language use and the evolution of linguistic variation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0051.

Tchernichovski, O., Fehér, O., Fimiarz, D. & Dalton, C. (2017). How social learning adds up to polymorphic culture: from songbirds to humans. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220, 1.

Fehér, O., Wonnacott, E., & Smith, K. (2016). Structural priming in artificial languages and the regularization of unpredictable variation. Journal of Memory and Language. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2016.06.002.

Fehér, O. (2016). Atypical birdsong and artificial languages provide insights into how communication systems are shaped by learning, use and transmission. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. Available online: doi:10.3758/s13423-016-1107-5.

Lipkind, D., Marcus, G. F., Bemis, D., Sasahara, K., Jakoby, N., Takahashi, M., Suzuki, K., Fehér, O., Ravbar, P., Okanoya, K., & Tchernichovski, O. (2013). Stepwise acquisition of vocal combinatorial capacity in songbirds and human infants. Nature, 498, 104-108.

Fehér, O., Wang, H., Saar, S., Mitra, P. P., & Tchernichovski, O. (2009). De novo establishment of wild-type song culture in the zebra finch. Nature, 459, 564-568.

Derégnaucourt, S., Mitra, P. P., Fehér, O., Pytte, C., & Tchernichovski, O. (2005). How sleep affects the developmental learning of birdsong. Nature, 433, 710-716.

Derégnaucourt, S. Mitra, P. P., Fehér, O., Maul, K. K., Lints, T. J., & Tchernichovski, O. (2004). Song Development: In Search of the Error-Signal. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1016, 364-376.

Under review / In prep

Fehér, O., Kirby, S., & Smith, K. Social influences on the regularization of unpredictable linguistic variation.

Fehér, O., Smith, K., Ljubicic, I., Suzuki, K., Okanoya, K., & Tchernichovski, O. Recursive self-tutoring induces acoustic convergence and periodic song structure in zebra finches.

Book chapters

Fehér, O., & Tchernichovski, O. (2013). Vocal culture in songbirds: An experimental approach to cultural evolution. In J. J. Bolhuis & Everaert, M. B. H. (Eds.), Birdsong, Speech & Language: Exploring the Evolution of Mind and Brain. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Selected conference proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Fehér, O., Wonnacott, L., Ritt, N., & Smith, K. (2016). Eliminating unpredictable variation through interaction. In Roberts S.G., Cuskley C., McCrohon L., Barceló-Coblijn L., Fehér O. & Verhoef T. (Eds.) The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference. doi:10.17617/2.2248195.

Fehér, O., Kirby, S., & Smith, K. (2014). Social influences on the regularization of unpredictable linguistic variation. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2187-2191). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Smith, K., Fehér, O., & Ritt, N. (2014). Eliminating unpredictable linguistic variation through interaction. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1461-1466). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Fehér, O., Ljubicic, I., Suzuki, K., Okanoya, K., & Tchernichovski, O. (2014). Birds tutored with their own developing song produce wildtype-like song as adults. In A. D. Smith, M. Schouwstra, B. de Boer & K. Smith (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (pp. 479-480). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing.

Sasahara, K., Takahashi, M., Suzuki, K., Fehér, O., Tchernichovski, O., & Okanoya, K. (2010). Considering language evolution from birdsong development. In A. D. Smith, M. Schouwstra, B. de Boer & K. Smith (Eds.), The Evolution of  Language: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference (pp. 479-480). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co.

Edited proceedings

Roberts, S.G., Cuskley, C., McCrohon, L., Barceló-Coblijn, L., Fehér, O., & Verhoef, T. (Eds.) The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference. doi:10.17617/2.2248195.

Selected conference talks

Fehér, O., Wonnacott, L., Ritt, N., & Smith, K. (2015). Eliminating unpredictable variation through interaction. (Presented at the 40th Boston University Conference on Language Development, Boston, USA.)

Fehér, O., Smith, K., Ljubicic, I., Suzuki, K., Okanoya, K., & Tchernichovski, O. (2015). Self-training in zebra finches reveals genetically and environmentally determined aspects of song. (Presented at Interdisciplinary Advances in Statistical Learning, San Sebastian, Spain.)

Fehér, O., Ritt, N., Smith, K., & ten Wolde, E. (2014). The spread of (in-)definiteness marking in Early English: reconstructing category emergence in the lab. (Presented at the 18th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, Leuven, Belgium.)

Smith, K., Fehér, O., & Ritt, N. (2014). Eliminating unpredictable variation through interaction. (Presented at Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing, Edinburgh, UK.)