Sunday 21 July 2019

Sounds of intense emotion may be universal language across species, study shows

JULY 11, 2019
by Katie Willis, University of Alberta
People can tell how other people are feeling by the sounds they make and now, new research from the University of Alberta shows that may also apply to different animals.
"The idea is that some species (those that are vocal learners) can understand other species' vocalizations," explained psychology Ph.D. student Jenna Congdon, who led a new study that showed both humans and black-capped chickadees can detect intense emotions such as fear or excitement in other species.
"For instance, a songbird is able to understand the call of distress of a different type of songbird when they are in the presence of a predator, like an owl or a hawk. Or, for example, if your friend scared you and you screamed. Both of these are high-arousal vocalizations, and being able to understand what that sounds like in a different species can be very useful."
Under the supervision of neuropsychologist Chris Sturdy, Congdon conducted two experiments, one examining chickadees and another examining humans. In the experiments, participants distinguished between high- and low-arousal vocalizations produced by other species, including alligators, chickadees, elephants, humans, pandas, piglets, ravens, macaques and tree frogs. Human subjects were able to identify high arousal in different species.

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