Do children understand man's best friend? Classification of dog barks by pre-adolescents and adults

  • Pongrácz P
  • Molnár C
  • Dóka A
 et al. 
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Play back experiments compared the ability of children (aged 6, 8, and 10 years) and adults to discriminate dog barks recorded in three different contexts. Participants had to categorize barks according to recording context, and to characterize the inner states of dogs by relating barks to facial expression of humans. It was found that older children classified more barks correctly. Children in all groups classified barks at a 'Stranger' significantly above chance level, however, only the ten-year-old children and adults could classify 'Play' barks over the chance level. There were no significant differences between the groups' performances in the inner state characterization task. 'Stranger' barks were considered as more 'angry', while 'Alone' barks were indicated as being more 'fearful'. In the case of 'Play' barks, participants had more difficulties in characterization. Overall we found only slight differences between the performances of preschoolers and adults. This shows that the ability of understanding basic inner states of dogs on the basis of acoustic signals is present in humans from a very young age. These results are in sharp contrast with other reports in the literature which showed that young children tend to misinterpret canine visual signals. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Children
  • Dog
  • Understanding emotions
  • Vocal signals

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