A new study from Bringham Young University finds that babies as young as 6 months old can understand the meaning of a dog’s bark, even without any previous contact.
The study consisted of 128 babies between 6 and 24 months old. They were each shown two different photos of the same dog – one depicting the dog with a friendly expression and the other with an aggressive stance. The researchers would then play recordings of an aggressive bark and a friendly bark in random order.
The team observed that while hearing each bark, the 6 month old babies would spend most of the time staring at the corresponding picture. Meanwhile, the older babies would instantly make the connection between stance and bark and then quickly move on to looking at something else. The researchers only conducted one trial on each infant in order to rule out the possibility of the babies learning the experiment.
The study’s news release explains why studies like this are so helpful:
“Though the mix of dogs and babies sounds silly, experiments of this kind help us understand how babies learn so rapidly. Long before they master speech, babies recognize and respond to the tone of what’s going on around them.”