Dogs are highly sociable animals, and there is no doubt that they can make a man’s best friend. A recent study shows what lies behind the communication of dogs and humans, and how animals can be so receptive to human speech.
A recent study investigating this issue has been carried out in Hungary, at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. Attila Andics was the leader of the research team. Their study relied on the courtesy of thirteen families which allowed their dogs to be part of the research.
The dogs were trained to allow medical appliances on them while awake. The purpose of the experiment was to measure the pets’ brain activity. Researchers assured families that nothing harmful would happen to the animals.
The experiment consisted of the dogs listening to several recordings. Some of them were praise phrases uttered in a praising tone, others were uttered in a neutral tone, and others were insignificant words, such as conjunctions, uttered, however, in a praising tone. There were various combinations of content and tone of voice.
What the scientists did was measure the brain activity of dogs while listening to these phrases and observe the animals’ reactions.
Specialists noted that dogs use the same parts of the brain as humans to process language, namely the left hemisphere. Dogs used this part of their brain in order to decipher the content of the phrases they heard, regardless of the tone of voice on which they were uttered.
Hence, another discovery is that dogs separate tone of voice and meaning of words. Researchers also observed that the quadrupeds used the right hemisphere of their brain to decode the tone. The human brain decodes tone in the same area.
Positive messages, reward, and food, are processed by dogs in the same area of their brain. They also tend to recognize familiar words, as praise phrases, but they are more prone to respond to an affectionate tone of voice, as they identify it as such.
The study shows that dogs can register words. This is how they know how to react when their owner calls them by the name, how to recognize their owner’s voice and how they can be so easily trained. They don’t necessarily grasp the meaning of words, but they distinguish between familiar phrases and new ones.
The dogs used for the test were mostly golden retrievers and border collies. Researchers believe that the test can show similar results with other animals used to living with humans.
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