New Study Explains How Dogs Understand Human Speech

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Have you ever wondered if your dog understands you?

Emory University studied this subject and gave a full report this Monday. The article was published in journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

The team proved that dogs have the ability to comprehend the words by associating them with visual images such as objects. The project was taken on 12 different breeds of dogs between two to six months. The dogs had to identify two different toys, one soft and one with another texture, just by hearing the respective name.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) semi-randomly to find out if the pets have at least a basic ability to accumulate new words. Researches were impressed to see how calm the dogs sat in this machine.

“Many dog owners think that their dogs know what some words mean, but there really isn’t much scientific evidence to support that,” the first author of the study and Ph.D. candidate in Emory’s Department of Psychology, Ashley Prichard stated.

This type of study in described as “Chaser Protocol”, where the dogs have to catch the toy based on the name they hear and they would get a treat if they are right. This study is trying to prove if dogs understand human speech without gestures.

“We know that dogs have the capacity to process at least some aspects of human language since they can learn to follow verbal commands,”  Emory neuroscientist Gregory Berns said.

With the help of the fMRI machine researchers observed that the brain of a dog reacts better to the made up words rather than the familiar ones. The cause of the differences of neural activity in the results for each dog was based on the size and shape of each pet. Some dogs even reacted differently to novel words than a human would.

“What’s surprising is that the result is opposite to that of research on humans — people typically show greater neural activation for known words than novel words.” Prichard reported.

The conclusion of this study is that dogs respond to new words because they are trying to understand us to make us happy and also for the treat.


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