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Humans (Homo sapiens) judge the emotional content of piglet (Sus scrofa domestica) calls based on simple acoustic parameters, not personality, empathy, nor attitude toward animals

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 21:34 authored by Iva L Marušcáková, Pavel Linhart, Victoria Ratcliffe, Céline Tallet, David Reby, Marek Špinka
The vocal expression of emotion is likely driven by shared physiological principles among species. However, which acoustic features promote decoding of emotional state and how the decoding is affected by ther listener's psychology remain poorly understood. Here we tested how acoustic features of piglet vocalizations interact with psychological profiles of human listeners to affect judgments of emotional content of heterospecific vocalizations. We played back 48 piglet call sequences recorded in four different contexts (castration, isolation, reunion, nursing) to 60 listeners. Listeners judged the emotional intensity and valence of the recordings and were further asked to attribute a context of emission from four proposed contexts. Furthermore, listeners completed a series of questionnaires assessing their personality (NEO-FFI personality inventory), empathy [Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI)] and attitudes to animals (Animal Attitudes Scale). None of the listeners' psychological traits affected the judgments. On the contrary, acoustic properties of recordings had a substantial effect on ratings. Recordings were rated as more intense with increasing pitch (mean fundamental frequency) and increasing proportion of vocalized sound within each stimulus recording and more negative with increasing pitch and increasing duration of the calls within the recording. More complex acoustic properties (jitter, harmonic-to-noise ratio, and presence of subharmonics) did not seem to affect the judgments. The probability of correct context recognition correlated positively with the assessed emotion intensity for castration and reunion calls, and negatively for nursing calls. In conclusion, listeners judged emotions from pig calls using simple acoustic properties and the perceived emotional intensity might guide the identification of the context.


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Journal of Comparative Psychology




American Psychological Association





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