Cats make purring sounds to show their comfort, and angry dogs woof and bark.
Can people really tell the emotions of other animals by their voices?
In a recent article published in the Royal Society Open Science, researchers surveyed 1,024 volunteers from 48 countries and found that humans may be able to distinguish the emotions in animal sounds.
The researchers first included the sounds of four domesticated mammals and two wild relatives in specific emotional states
For example, positive emotional sounds such as the sound made during exercise, the happy neighing of a horse before eating
Negative emotional sounds, such as wailing when hungry.
There are also voices made by voice actors in angry, scared or happy tones with no specific meaning.
The volunteers were asked to compare the emotional arousal of the audio (arousal refers to the change in duration, amplitude, or frequency of the vocalization in response to some state/event stimulus) or to determine the valence of the emotion (i.e., whether the type of emotion is positive or negative).
The results showed that the percentage of volunteers who correctly distinguished between emotional arousal and valence was 54.1% and 55.3%, respectively.
From a species perspective, participants correctly distinguished between human, goat, horse, pig and wild boar emotional types at a higher than randomized level.
However, it was difficult to identify the emotions of cow and wild horse sounds.
In addition, participant gender had little effect on accuracy, while participants who were younger, more empathetic, and more experienced with animals were better at perceiving arousal and emotional validity.