Puppies and kittens, as the cutest assistants and partners, have been with humans for thousands of years, but humans have never understood what they are saying to us when they “bark” and “meow meow”.
In a cozy American family movie “Lacey the Spirit Dog”, the dog Lacey barked at the owner and finally let the owner understand that someone was trapped in the well. Now that half a century has passed, the communication between people and cats and dogs is still impossible. They are definitely delivering some kind of information to us, but we cannot translate these “Wang Xingyu” and “Meow Xingyu” into Chinese or English. Is there any hope to change this situation in the future? Let’s listen to the detailed analysis of many scientists for us.
Albert Bozcutt, professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University:
The language interaction between humans and pets is more appropriate to use the term “communication” than “talk.” We can talk to them, and they will talk to us in their own language. Such things happen every day. The question is whether we can understand their information.
There are three ways of understanding, the first is to understand the information they want to convey through sound, this is a typical “conversation”; the second is to use their body language, because animals transmit information through body language almost all the time; and finally One is to analyze their physiological information, such as measuring their heart rate, muscle tension, breathing rate, and secretion level of stress hormone (cortisol).
Our research team will use wearable or injectable electronic sensors to evaluate these signals. Conversely, we can also convey the information we want to express by showing them the “real self”-we can use some traditional psychobehavioral tools, such as classical conditioning or operational conditioning. In addition, we and Professor David Roberts of the School of Computer Science at North Carolina State University have also established a cooperative group to try to achieve this goal through machine learning and artificial intelligence.
What I want to say is that with the continuous development of biomedical sensors, wearable devices, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things technology, we have now entered a new era, with new tools that can interact with us Of pets and working animals communicate more consciously and efficiently.
Zakley Silver, PhD student in psychology at Yale University and member of the Canine Cognitive Center:
At least so far, there is no evidence that dogs or other pets have what we call language skills. Language seems to be a unique human skill. Even the chimpanzee or bonobo, which is the closest to us in genetics, does not seem to have the ability to speak the language.
However, we know that dogs are very good at deciphering the social signals we give. As long as we gradually figure out how dogs understand these signals and gestures, we can better communicate with them. Having said that, the way dogs understand the content of communication is still one-way, that is, they can understand a lot of what we say, but they cannot carry out complex communication with us. However, as we learn more about the dog’s communication system, the communication with them will become more complex and delicate.
A research team is currently working with Bunny, the “net celebrity dog”. The team developed a system that allows dogs to communicate with humans with specific vocabulary as long as they press a button. The effectiveness of this communication has yet to be discussed, but this is already an exciting development.
As for humans’ understanding of the way of communication in dogs, people began to pay attention to this issue as early as when the cognitive ability of dogs just became a research field. Currently, we are still studying how much information dogs can infer from our social signals (such as the tone of voice). My laboratory, as well as many canine laboratories across the United States, want to clarify this problem.
Our research includes various signals sent by humans, such as our body language, speech tone, gaze orientation, etc., which can make dogs realize that we are consciously communicating with them. These signals are collectively referred to as “communication intent”.
Although these communication intentions are far from serious language, I believe that the more we understand the canine communication methods, the more efficiently we can send cooperation signals to them. For example, some working dogs can understand the multi-step instructions issued by the trainer. The smoother the communication with these service dogs, the better the quality of life of their clients. This may further improve the efficiency of drug detection dogs and search and rescue dogs, and sometimes even the success of search and rescue. And any domestic animal that can understand human social signals can apply this theory.
Mark Bekov, Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder:
Although pets do not speak human language, if we listen carefully to their voices and pay attention to the way they communicate with us, we can also be very Understand their thoughts and needs well, and provide them with the best life possible.
Think about it carefully, we actually control the lives of pets to a large extent, requiring them to adapt to our lifestyle. We decide what they eat, when they eat, when they play, who they play with, and when they can go to the toilet. If what people say by “talking” means speaking in human language, then we would be a waste of time to ask them to be “like us” because they are not humans. They are animals, and each animal is an independent individual, with a unique personality, and will communicate in the most suitable way for them. Animals are animals, not robot companions, let alone so-called “hairy humans.” So we must make them obey the nature of animals as much as possible.
Brian Hare, professor of evolutionary anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience at Duke University:
You may be surprised by how many words a dog can understand.
On average, service dogs can understand at least 50 commands. A dog named Chaser can even remember the names of 1,000 objects and toys. The magic of the chaser is that she can learn new vocabulary through the “exclusion method”. As long as she hears a new word, she will infer that “this is the name of a new toy”, and then pick up a toy that it doesn’t know what its name is. She can remember every word taught to her, and her vocabulary is constantly growing. The reason why her vocabulary remained at 1000 was only because the owner had no time to train her.
Although Doggo is very good at understanding what we mean, it is only one-way communication after all. Can we turn this communication into two-way?
The dog’s vocal cords are very “plastic” and can make a variety of sounds that represent different meanings. In an experiment, the researchers recorded the barking of dogs when they were alone and the barking of strangers when they visited, and then played the two recordings to subjects to see if they could distinguish between them. different.
It turns out that most people can make correct judgments regardless of whether the subjects have their own dogs or not.
Dogs also pass on information through some special behaviors. Many dog owners can understand their intentions from the dog’s actions, such as “Let’s play ball”, “I want to go to the bathroom” or “Come here to see” and so on.
The most amazing thing about dogs is that they can read our body language. If you throw a ball out, but your dog can’t find it, you just need to tap the direction of the ball with your finger, and it will run over happily. This action seems very simple, but to do this, your dog must understand that you know something it doesn’t know, and your intention is to help it. This kind of thinking ability only appears when human babies are 9 months old, and it is also the key to their understanding of culture and language.
The conversation between dogs and people is actually quite sophisticated. As we further explore the canine thinking world, I hope we can learn more.
Michael Wilson, associate professor of ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota:
If the pets here are parrots and other capable birds, then we already have the ability to talk to animals. For example, Alex, an African grey parrot bred by animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, can understand and speak some words related to colors, shapes, and numbers.
With the help of technology, even animals that cannot imitate human voices can learn to communicate with humans. Just like a series of language experiments on apes in the 1970s, dogs can also learn to use special “electronic communication pads” to communicate with humans.
Therefore, in certain situations, we can already talk to our pets.
But can we have long conversations with pets? Can we ask them how they feel today, like talking to other people, or make them understand that the owner will be out for a while and come back in a few days? Or talk to them about hopes and dreams? This seems unlikely, because this level of dialogue requires a more complex language system and requires higher levels of thinking complexity. Common pets such as cats and dogs do not seem to have these abilities.
Language system and way of thinking, these two gaps between humans and pets are not insignificant. But with the continuous development of science and technology, I believe there is always a way to build a bridge between the huge gap and let cats, dogs and humans enter each other’s hearts.