Orienting asymmetries in dogs’ responses to different communicatory components of human speech

Ratcliffe, Victoria F and Reby, David (2014) Orienting asymmetries in dogs’ responses to different communicatory components of human speech. Current Biology, 24 (24). pp. 2908-2912. ISSN 0960-9822

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Abstract

It is well established that in human speech perception the left hemisphere (LH) of the brain is specialized for processing intelligible phonemic (segmental) content (e.g., [1–3]), whereas the right hemisphere (RH) is more sensitive to pro- sodic (suprasegmental) cues [4, 5]. Despite evidence that a range of mammal species show LH specialization when pro- cessing conspecific vocalizations [6], the presence of hemi- spheric biases in domesticated animals’ responses to the communicative components of human speech has never been investigated. Human speech is familiar and relevant to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), who are known to perceive both segmental phonemic cues [7–10] and supra- segmental speaker-related [11, 12] and emotional [13] proso- dic cues. Using the head-orienting paradigm, we presented dogs with manipulated speech and tones differing in segmental or suprasegmental content and recorded their orienting responses. We found that dogs showed a sig- nificant LH bias when presented with a familiar spoken command in which the salience of meaningful phonemic (segmental) cues was artificially increased but a significant RH bias in response to commands in which the salience of intonational or speaker-related (suprasegmental) vocal cues was increased. Our results provide insights into mech- anisms of interspecific vocal perception in a domesticated mammal and suggest that dogs may share ancestral or convergent hemispheric specializations for processing the different functional communicative components of speech with human listeners.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology > QL0750 Animal behaviour
Depositing User: David Reby
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2014 13:42
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2017 11:56
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/51504

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