Babies as young as 6 months old can recognise the difference between a dog’s happy bark and its angry one, US researchers have found.
Even though these babies are not yet able to talk, they were able to show a different reaction when they heard aggressive barking compared with friendly barking. The study found this was the case even if the babies had little or no exposure to dogs.
The different barking sounds were played to the babies in a random order and, at the same time, the tots were shown two different pictures of the dog – one looking friendly, the other aggressive.
Incredibly, the majority of the babies stared at the picture showing the relevant emotion of the dog. The researchers believe this shows that humans may be born with an inbuilt survival instinct, recognising when wild, potentially dangerous, animals are threatening them.
This is no shaggy dog story – previous research has shown that babies are able to spot the difference in mood swings in music by Beethoven. It seems that babies are even more intuitive than we realise!