Dogs Understand Both What We Say and How We Say It, Study Finds
Dog owners, if you've ever thought that your four-legged friend could understand what you're saying, you may have been right!
A new study out of Hungary found that dogs process speech in a similar way to humans, and both what you say and the way that you say it matter when it comes to communicating with man’s best friend.
For the study, dogs' brains were scanned as they listened to recordings of their trainers' voices. The trainers spoke to them using multiple combinations of vocabulary and intonation, in both praising and neutral ways.
For example, trainers spoke praise words with a praising intonation, praise words with a neutral intonation, neutral words with a praising intonation, and neutral words with neutral intonation.
Researchers found that the dogs only registered that they were being praised if the words and intonation were positive.
Meaningless words spoken in an encouraging voice, or meaningful words in a neutral tone, didn’t have the same effect.
“Dog brains care about both what we say and how we say it,” said lead researcher Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. “Praise can work as a reward only if both word meaning and intonation match.”
“The neural capacities to process words that were thought by many to be uniquely human are actually shared with other species,” he said. “This suggests that the big change that made humans able to start using words was not a big change in neural capacity.”
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