Babies in tune with dog's emotions


Whether a dog gives a friendly yap or an angry snarl, a baby can tell how the pooch is feeling.

A new study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University in the US found that infants - some just six-months old - could match the sound of a happy bark with a photo of a dog that looked friendly. The youngsters paired an angry growl with a photo of a threatening-looking dog.

Those results indicate that long before infants learn to talk, babies recognise and respond to the tone of what's going on around them.

"Infants enter the world with a large capacity for recognising emotion," said psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study published in Developmental Psychology. "Infants many not understand what you say, but they know how you say it. They pick up on emotional cues, even in the first six months."

The findings are just another piece of the brain development puzzle.

"Within the first two years of life we have more rapid changes in our development than at any time in our life," Prof Flom said.

"We learn to talk, walk, think and develop an awareness of other people.

"We are trying to uncover how we master so much in a short amount of time. Young infants have a remarkable ability to recognise affect (emotion) not only human faces and voices but in a wide variety of contexts."

Dogs were chosen for the experiment because they are highly communicative in both facial expression and bark, he said.  More than 125 children, ranging in age from six-to-24-months, took part.

Alan Fogel, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah who wasn't involved in the research, said the study fits with previous studies that show babies are able to match up human faces and voices.

"Recognising the emotions of other people and other species is highly relevant to our ability to survive in the world."

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