Babies can follow dogspeak - literally


The new findings come on the heels of a study from the same Brigham Young University lab (BYU) showing that infants can detect mood swings in Beethoven's music.

Though the mix of dogs and babies sounds silly, experiments of this kind help us understand how babies learn so rapidly. Long before they master speech, babies recognise and respond to the tone of what's going on around them.
“Emotion is one of the first things babies pick up on in their social world,” said BYU psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study.
“We chose dogs because they are highly communicative creatures both in their posture and the nature of their bark,” Flom said.

In the experiment, the babies first saw two different pictures of the same dog, one in an aggressive posture and the other in a friendly stance. Then the researchers played - in random order - sound clips of a friendly and an aggressive dog bark.

“They only had one trial because we didn't want them to learn it on the fly and figure it out,” Flom said.
While the recordings played, the six-month-old babies spent most of their time staring at the appropriate picture. Older babies usually made the connection instantly with their very first glance.

Study co-authors Dan Hyde and Heather Whipple Stephenson conducted the experiments as undergrads and don't recall any babies getting upset. “Many of them enjoyed it,” said Hyde.
These findings were published in Developmental Psychology.

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