Horses and pigs can distinguish between rough and polite human speech

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the University of Copenhagen have found that horses and pigs can distinguish between negative and positive tone of human speech.

This study provides insight into the history of emotional development and offers interesting perspectives on animal welfare.

Anna-Laura Megro, Edna Hillmann and Elodie Brifer from the Faculty of Biology at the University of Copenhagen wanted to know if animals can distinguish between positively and negatively charged sounds (speech).

The study showed that these animals can distinguish between “rude” and “polite” sounds, both from their fellows and people.

How was the study

Horses and pigs can distinguish between rough and polite human speech 2

The researchers played back recordings of animal sounds and human voices from hidden speakers. To avoid the reaction of domesticated animals to certain words, the positive and negative human speech was performed by a professional actor, he did not say any meaningful phrases, but simply made sounds.

The behavioral responses of the animals were recorded in categories ranging from the position of the ears to their movement or lack thereof.

Based on this, the researchers concluded that animals are influenced by the emotions with which we charge our voices when we talk to them or are near them.

They react more strongly generally faster when they are greeted with a negatively charged voice, compared to when they are first played a positively charged voice. In certain situations, they even seem to reflect the emotions they are exposed to.

Can animals understand emotions?

Part of the purpose of the study was to explore the possibility of “emotional contagion” in animals – a kind of mirror image of emotions. In behavioral biology, this type of response is seen as the first step in the category of empathy.

“If future research projects clearly demonstrate that these animals reflect emotions, as this study suggests, it will be very interesting in terms of the history of the development of emotions and the extent to which animals have emotional life and levels of consciousness,” says Elodie Brifer.

The study did not find clear signs of “emotional contagion”, but an interesting result was obtained in the order of pronunciation of sounds.

According to Elodie Briefer, this suggests that the way we talk to animals can affect their well-being. “This means that our voices have a direct impact on the emotional state of the animals, which is very interesting in terms of their protection,” she says.

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