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article imageUnderstanding how dogs interpret human speech

By Tim Sandle     Dec 7, 2014 in Science
Dogs tend to turn to the left when they hear emotional speech-like sounds, and right when they hear verbal commands from a robot, according to some fascinating new research into how dogs interpret sounds.
By using head movements to extrapolate which half of the brain dogs use to interpret verbal input, scientists have uncovered evidence that dogs may show similar patterns of processing human speech as their owners do.
The research data showed that when they are presented with a monotone, robotic voice speaking the familiar command “to come” from speakers on both sides of the dogs’ heads, the animals tended to turn to the right. This suggested that their left hemispheres were at work.
However, upon hearing meaningless talk that was chock-full of emotion, the dogs tended to turn to the left, indicating use of their right hemispheres. Interestingly, in humans, the left hemisphere is generally associated with speech processing, while the right is associated with picking up emotional cues, though both hemispheres play a role in different stages of speech interpretation.
Furthermore, the study suggests that dogs key into the meaning of words, not just the inflection with which humans say them. Discussing this, Attila Andics, a neurobiologist at the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest, told U.S. National Public Radio's Shots that the "dogs are able to differentiate between meaningful and meaningless sound sequences."
The research has been published in the journal Current Biology. The research paper is titled "Orienting Asymmetries in Dogs’ Responses to Different Communicatory Components of Human Speech."
More about Speech, Speaking, Dogs, Humans, Sounds
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