What Do Animals Hear When We Talk?
What Do Animals Hear When We Talk?
Those of us who talk to our animals probably know that we often use voice, tone, and body language to communicate with them. Now, researchers are discovering that these nonverbal signals have a lot of meaning for other species, too!
The good news is that animals have evolved their ears to be able to pick up all kinds of sound. This helps them adapt and survive.
When we speak, it's not just the consonants and vowels that matter. The way we use them to convey what we want also matters. For example, a dog's attention is likely to be attracted by a high-pitched voice that uses its ear canal to create an enticing symphony of sound.
For a while now, researchers have been interested in the oh so hot sexy acoustic tricks that mammals - and some reptiles - have mastered. Now they have a better idea of what animals actually hear when we speak to them. Previously, scientists believed that humans had the same hearing capabilities as other mammals; however, they now know that we have what could be called the world's most selective ears, meaning that we are capable of picking out the smallest variations in the noise. Those variations are in turn reflected back to the brain by small changes in the pattern of nerve activity. The most impressive trick is that humans are able to do so without any training or a special device.
Your voice carries with it a specific message and meaning that has a direct impact on your pet's response to you. The tone of your voice reflects your feelings and emotions--so a calm, reassuring, soft tone sends the message that you are a caring, affectionate person.
Similarly, a high-pitched voice sends the message that you are excited and playful. In addition, the tone of your voice tells your dog that you are a confident and assertive person.
Researchers have shown that dogs can tell the difference between compliments spoken in a friendly tone and neutral words flatly delivered. They also found that dogs' reward centers only became activated when positive words and positive intonation were used together.
The same way humans can interpret tone of voice and speech, animals also use body language to understand what we say. That includes eye contact, facial expressions, posture, gestures, and the intonation of our voice.
When you’re talking to someone, be sure to pay attention to their body language to get a better understanding of how they’re feeling and what they want from you. It’s an invaluable skill that can help you build trust and relationships in both personal and professional settings!
Some of the most common body language cues include raised eyebrows, mirroring, head tilt, crossed arms, and fidgeting with objects. They can tell you a lot about the other person’s openness and whether they’re paying attention to what you have to say.
Despite their limited communication abilities, animals are still part of our fabric of life and that includes pets. They're our best friends and our biggest fans, and we can't help but give them the attention they deserve. In recent years, a handful of animal esoterica have caught our eye from afar--think dolphins, giraffes and even sharks (they can see). And the latest news on the topic of speech has researchers at the University of Lyon in France excited. For example, a recent study has revealed some of the most sophisticated speech recognizing algorithms in the animal kingdom, and the results are pretty good indeed. In fact, the researchers found that some dogs can recognize a new word after only hearing it once--the best case being they're able to repeat that utterance within 4 weeks of first hearing it.
For a more comprehensive look into the state of the art, check out the new paper published in Current Biology.