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........ published in NEWSLETTER # 49

by Dr. P.K. McGregor, Dept. of Life Science, University, Nottingham (U.K.)

The technique of playback involves re_broadcasting a natural or synthetic signal and observing the animal's response; it is a major reason for the scope and depth of detail of studies of acoustic communication in animals. This book (NATO ASI SERIES A228) is one of the outcomes of a workshop on playback held at Thornbridge Hall in the Peak District National Park, England, during August 1991 and the contents reflect the twin aims of the workshop.

The first aim was to resolve a current dispute about the extent of pseudoreplication in playback experiments. Pseudoreplication is an issue concerning design and interpretation of experiments and as such it is an inherent problem in all the experimental sciences. The first chapter of the book is a succinct summary of the current pseudoreplication debate; more importantly, it presents an agreed resolution of the problem. The chapter also contains a list of factors known to be important to consider when designing playback experiments, based on the wealth of playback experience of the workshop participants. No_one involved with playback experiments or comtemplating one can afford to ignore this chapter. Pseudoreplication is abundant in almost all areas of science, therefore this chapter will also be of value to other researchers.

The second aim results from the rapid increase in the number of new playback and analysis techniques for sound communication. The workshop seemed an opportune moment to review and discuss these techniques. The remaining 14 chapters cover a variety of topics: from new techniques of playback execution, interpretation and analysis, to overviews of particular areas of current interest which emphasise the future prospects for the technique.

It was decided to restrict the scope of the workshop to acoustic communication, since the pseudoreplication debate had its roots in this area and to date, playback of sound signals has predominated. However, playback of electric signals is commonplace and even video playback of visual signals is becoming more frequent, suggesting that playback will become just as prevalent in studies of communication in other sensory modalities _ and provide material for future workshops.
Reference books: A28, A156, A228

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