Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats (Felis catus).
ABSTRACT Domestic cats have had a 10,000-year history of cohabitation with humans and seem to have the ability to communicate with humans. However, this has not been widely examined. We studied 20 domestic cats to investigate whether they could recognize their owners by using voices that called out the subjects' names, with a habituation-dishabituation method. While the owner was out of the cat's sight, we played three different strangers' voices serially, followed by the owner's voice. We recorded the cat's reactions to the voices and categorized them into six behavioral categories. In addition, ten naive raters rated the cats' response magnitudes. The cats responded to human voices not by communicative behavior (vocalization and tail movement), but by orienting behavior (ear movement and head movement). This tendency did not change even when they were called by their owners. Of the 20 cats, 15 demonstrated a lower response magnitude to the third voice than to the first voice. These habituated cats showed a significant rebound in response to the subsequent presentation of their owners' voices. This result indicates that cats are able to use vocal cues alone to distinguish between humans.
SourceAvailable from: Buddhamas Pralle Kriengwatana[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The extent to which human speech perception evolved by taking advantage of predis-positions and pre-existing features of vertebrate auditory and cognitive systems remains a central question in the evolution of speech. This paper reviews asymmetries in vowel perception, speaker voice recognition, and speaker normalization in non-human animals – topics that have not been thoroughly discussed in relation to the abilities of non-human animals, but are nonetheless important aspects of vocal perception. Throughout this paper we demonstrate that addressing these issues in non-human animals is relevant and worthwhile because many non-human animals must deal with similar issues in their natural environment. That is, they must also discriminate between similar-sounding vocalizations, determine signaler identity from vocalizations, and resolve signaler-dependent variation in vocalizations from conspecifics. Overall, we find that, although plausible, the current evidence is insufficiently strong to conclude that directional asymmetries in vowel perception are specific to humans, or that non-human animals can use voice characteristics to recognize human individuals. However, we do find some indication that non-human animals can normalize speaker differences. Accordingly, we identify avenues for future research that would greatly improve and advance our understanding of these topics.Frontiers in Psychology 01/2015; 5. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01543 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Animals can accrue direct fitness benefits by accurately classifying predatory threat according to the species of predator and the magnitude of risk associated with an encounter. Human predators present a particularly interesting cognitive challenge, as it is typically the case that different human subgroups pose radically different levels of danger to animals living around them. Although a number of prey species have proved able to discriminate between certain human categories on the basis of visual and olfactory cues, vocalizations potentially provide a much richer source of information. We now use controlled playback experiments to investigate whether family groups of free-ranging African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Amboseli National Park, Kenya can use acoustic characteristics of speech to make functionally relevant distinctions between human subcategories differing not only in ethnicity but also in sex and age. Our results demonstrate that elephants can reliably discriminate between two different ethnic groups that differ in the level of threat they represent, significantly increasing their probability of defensive bunching and investigative smelling following playbacks of Maasai voices. Moreover, these responses were specific to the sex and age of Maasai presented, with the voices of Maasai women and boys, subcategories that would generally pose little threat, significantly less likely to produce these behavioral responses. Considering the long history and often pervasive predatory threat associated with humans across the globe, it is likely that abilities to precisely identify dangerous subcategories of humans on the basis of subtle voice characteristics could have been selected for in other cognitively advanced animal species.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2014; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1321543111 · 9.81 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The nature of the interactions that maintain the social behavior of dogs towards humans and which interactions dogs prefer have not been thoroughly investigated. We focused here on dogs’ preference for petting and vocal praise, and the influence that familiarity (owner vs. stranger) has on that preference. We first used concurrent choice to evaluate dogs’ preference for petting or vocal praise and measured the initial choice, the time spent with each alternative, and the number of within-session alternations. We assessed dogs’ preference for petting or vocal praise in 1) shelter dogs, 2) owned dogs with strangers providing both interactions, and 3) owned dogs with the dog's owner providing the interactions. Across all experimental groups, dogs preferred petting to vocal praise. We next assessed time spent with each alternative when only one alternative was available at a time in shelter dogs and owned dogs (Experiment 2). Shelter dogs were tested with a stranger and owned dogs were tested with their owners providing the interaction. Dogs alternated between petting and vocal praise, vocal praise and no interaction, or received only petting for eight 3-min sessions of each comparison. Both shelter and owned dogs spent significantly longer in proximity to the experimenter when the interaction was petting compared to vocal praise. Vocal praise produced as little proximity-seeking behavior as did no interaction. Additionally, dogs did not show any sign of satiation with petting across all eight sessions. Overall, petting seems to be an important interaction between dogs and humans that might maintain inter-specific social behavior but vocal praise likely has to be specifically conditioned.Behavioural Processes 01/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.beproc.2014.08.019 · 1.46 Impact Factor