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Babies Understand Angry and Happy Barks
Jul 22, 2009 18:41
Babies understand the meaning of different dog barks - long before they master human speech, research has revealed.
Scientists found youngsters aged just six months were able to differentiate between an angry snarl and a friendly yap, despite little or no previous exposure to the animals.
It suggests very young children master emotions before they can even talk, according to U.S researchers.
The varied sounds were played in random order and the children were then shown photos of dogs displaying the body language to match. They then linked them to the sounds.
Researchers showed the babies two different pictures of the same dog - one in an aggressive posture and the other in a friendly stance.
While the recordings played, the majority of babies stared at the most appropriate picture.
The research indicates that humans could be born with an inbuilt survival instinct.
The babies in the select study by Brigham Young University, USA, had little or no exposure to dogs in their daily lives, the researchers told the journal Developmental Psychology.
The study is the latest by the Mormon-owned university to show how well babies can recognise emotion at such an early age.
Previous research suggested infants could instinctively spot the difference in mood swings in music by Beethoven.
Researcher Professor Ross Flom said: 'Emotion is one of the first things babies pick up on in their social world.
'We chose dogs because they are highly communicative creatures both in their posture and the nature of their bark.'
A small group of babies from six months upwards were shown the pictures first and then played the music.
The test was only conducted once so that the babies did not learn a routine to stick to which may have skewered the results, said the researchers.
Fellow researcher Heather Whipple Stephenson admitted the idea sounded bizarre at first but she added: 'Infants are pretty co-operative subjects.
'With this study, my favourite part was watching a somewhat zany idea grow into a legitimate research project.'
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