Empathetic People Seem to Have A Special Ability When It Comes to Animals : ScienceAlert

Can you tell whether a hoofed animal is happy or in pain just from its whining, growling, squealing, or mooing? It may indicate that you are passing the time.

A study led by Elodie Briefer, an animal behaviorist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, found that people with higher empathy scores were better at discerning animal emotions from sounds alone.

The study follows similar research published earlier this year by Briefer, which supports the speculation that animals hear and respond to emotions in our own voices.

Briefer and her team collected vocalization recordings from domestic animals (such as pigs, horses, goats, and cows) and wild animals (such as wild boars and Przewalski horses in the wild).

Some of these recordings were associated with positive experiences, such as animals waiting for food or reuniting with friends.

Other sounds were made when animals were afraid, stressed, or socially isolated.

Heart rate in domestic animals and movement in wild animals were used as measures of the intensity of emotion when a sound was heard, or ’emotional arousal’.

Human voices were also included in the mix. The researchers created some nonsensical words and hired actors to say them in positive and negative voices.

Two sounds from the same animal (or human actor), one with low arousal and one with high arousal, were played to 1,024 study participants in 48 countries.

People were also asked to complete an empathy questionnaire based on the Interpersonal Response Index.

This index measures four empathy traits: the tendency to adopt another’s point of view, the tendency to feel sympathy for others, the tendency to experience pain when others are in trouble, and the tendency to imagine oneself in fictional situations. Trend.

Overall, people correctly interpreted the meaning of animal calls more than 50% of the time, which is better than chance.

Humans were more reliable at detecting levels of emotional arousal than types of emotions in animals. It could be because it is represented, says Briefer, a senior author of the study.

Gender and level of education did not affect the ability to interpret animal calls, but age did, with the highest in people aged 20 to 29 and the ability to decline with age.

Humans were more sensitive to the sounds of other humans and domestic animals compared to wild animals. It also suggests that people who have worked closely with animals have a better understanding of them, suggesting that touching and practicing with animals can improve interspecies communication.

Those with high empathy scores were better able to understand the meaning of animal sounds.

This finding mirrors another study, which found that humans with strong cat empathy were less likely to associate their meowing with positive experiences (such as being brushed) or negative experiences (such as being isolated). ) were better identified.

It is possible to train humans to have a better understanding of the emotional lives of animals, Briefer says.

“When students try the test in class, they get an average of 50% accuracy on the first attempt,” she says.

“After discussing the sounds and knowledge we have of animal vocalizations, they improve. On the second attempt, we usually get more than 70% correct.”

This research suggests that all of us mammals share a common emotional system.

This paper Royal Society Open Science.

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