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Babies Can Comprehend 'Canine' Language
Date:7/24/2009

They matched type of bark with right canine expression, researcher says

FRIDAY, July 24 (HealthDay News) -- What's in a bark? A new study suggests that 6-month-old babies know the answer.

Researchers found that most infants who were tested could figure out that an aggressive bark goes with an angry-looking dog. They also seemed to know that friendly-looking pooches voice their feelings in a different way.

The babies managed to do this even though they weren't very familiar with dogs.

It's not clear whether the babies actually know that a dog baring its teeth is a sign of trouble, but they're showing a level of sophistication regarding how dogs reveal their emotions, said study author Ross Flom, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

"We think babies have a broad-based set of abilities and skills when they enter the world," he said. "And those become broadened and honed based on the individual experiences in their lives."

Flom spends his time studying how babies perceive emotions, and previously found that they can tell the difference between upbeat and gloomy music.

In the new study, Flom and his colleagues recruited 128 infants and toddlers, almost all of whom were white. All of the participants had little or no exposure to dogs during their brief lives.

The researchers showed the babies video stills of aggressive and non-aggressive dogs, and watched what they did when they heard sounds of barking.

The study results appear in the July issue of Developmental Psychology.

The researchers believe that they can glean whether a baby is making a connection between two things by monitoring how long they look at a picture. In this case, 6-month-old babies were more likely to look longer at the picture of a canine expression that matched the bark.

Only about 15 percent of the babies spent m
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