Communication

The Thoughtful Animal

Category archives for Communication

Dogs are pretty smart. They can have huge vocabularies, they can infer meaning in the growls of other dogs, and they can effortlessly figure out if other dogs want to play or fight with them. But their intelligence might be limited to the social domain; indeed, while they outperform chimpanzees in social tasks, chimpanzees outperform…

Predator-prey interactions are often viewed as evolutionary arms races; while predators improve their hunting behaviors and their ability to sneak up on their prey, the prey improve upon their abilities to detect and escape from their predators. The problem, of course, is that there is a trade-off between maintaining vigilance – the attention necessary to…

Hands Off My Bone!

Different dog growls mean different things, right? Probably. But can you tell the difference? Here’s a dog growling when someone is trying to steal its food: link to mp3. Here’s a dog growling at a stranger: link to mp3. You probably can’t tell the difference. Neither could I. Dogs can. Surprised? Probably not. But, this…

Dogs are particularly good at tasks that involve communicating or cooperating with humans, which has led some researchers to speculate that they are really good at solving social tasks, more generally. For example, dogs can figure out where a human’s attention is, are really good at picking up on eye-gaze and finger pointing cues, distinguish…

Yesterday afternoon, I watched the livestream of the “All Creatures Great and Smart” session of the World Science Festival in New York City. The session was absolutely fantastic, and featured Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods, Jeremy Niven, Patrick Hof and Klaus Zuberb├╝hler. The conversation challenged long-held assumptions about the differences between “animal” and “human”, and included…

…and what can word-learning in dogs teach us about the evolution of language in humans? What is involved in the learning of a single new word? Consider the word “tiger”, being learned by a child with already a modest vocabulary, at least for animal words. First the child must make a new entry in the…

[It's a really busy week over here at blog headquarters, because it is data collection week. Data collection week is awesome, but it means less time for blogging. So here's a piece from the archives. I picked this one especially for Drugmonkey, because he liked it so much.] The Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is a…

Elephants Say “Bee-ware!”

What information is contained in the call of a mammal? Some calls might reflect the internal emotional state of the animal, like fear or anxiety, or they can refer to an external object, agent, or event, like the presence of a predator. Rhesus monkeys, lemurs, baboons, and guinea pigs, for example, will produce calls when…