A recent brain scan done on a number of dogs by Hungarian researchers has finally shed some light on a very controversial question, “Can dogs really understand what we are saying and can they differentiate between honesty and dishonesty?”
According to a study recently released on Science, dogs can indeed understand human vocabulary – but what is even more fascinating is that dogs are also able to judge our tone of voice. Interestingly dogs have, like humans, two hemispheres which makes up their brain, left and right.
They use the left hemisphere to process words, and the right hemisphere to process tone. This ultimately means, like humans dogs can tell when you are genuine or fake, all from the tone of your voice and the words used.
Simply saying, “You are such a good boy” in comparison to, “You are such a good boy!” can determine whether the dog believes you or not. Dogs, like humans look for true demeanor, sincerity and honesty in the tone and action of what is being said.
Lead researcher Attila Andics from Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University stated that, “dogs use very similar brain mechanisms” to that of humans in regard to how we process what is being said to us.
The receptors in our ears listen for what is being said, and how it is being said. Our brain then receives those frequencies and begins to integrate them to arrive at one logical meaning.
Where did this conclusion come from? Attila Andics and his team of researcher’s trained 13 dogs to remain absolutely still while being scanned with an MRI machine. While in the machine Andics recorded the brain rhythms of each dog as they listened to their trainer’s voice.
Dogs ultimately want to be praised so to see what part of the brain is stimulated when speaking in different inflections, the trainers used words and tones that implied praise as well as disappointment.
The study showed that when being praised the dogs ‘reward’ center is activated and stimulated – the same area of the brain responsible for pleasurable stimuli such as sex, food, walks, play and being petted.
“It shows that for dogs, a nice praise can very well work as a reward, but it works best if both words and intonation match,” said Andics.
He then went on to say, “So dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant. Again, this is very similar to what human brains do.” – Incredible to say the least!
For those of you who love and are familiar with dogs and their ways, this study is probably old news, but the most interesting and incredible part of this whole study is that dogs have not developed the capability to actually vocalize words but they are able to understand it.
They can understand the intention behind them, and that the neural mechanisms needed to actually process speech and intention is not as unique to humans as we originally thought!