Hungarian scientists have finally confirmed what dog-owners have known for generations: dogs do understand human speech, and they’re always listening.
Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, conducted the study with brain scanners attached to 13 dogs. They monitored dogs’ brain activity as their owners spoke combination of words in varying intonations.
The brain scanners recorded which parts of the dog’s brain “light up” with electrical activity during the experiment. While the data confirmed that dogs understand specific words, researchers are more interested in another finding: the brain regions activated in dogs when listening to speech are equivalent to those that we humans use when trying to understand each other.
Put simply, this means that the mental mechanisms involved in understanding speech are not unique to humans. Attila Andics, the study’s co-author, said that the dogs were also listening to intonation – the rise and fall of the human voice, used to convey emotion or meaning – in the same way humans do.
So even though your furry friend may not completely understand what you’re saying, it can discern an angry voice from one of praise – again, nothing new to anyone who’s spent any amount of time around dogs. Now, when your friends scoff at your dog’s intelligence, refer them to this article.