A new study provides evidence that human speech style can affect equine behavior and that pet-directed speech (aka “baby talk”) improves human-horse communication.
Posted by Robin Foster, PhD, CHBC, Cert. AAB, IAABC | Apr 4, 2021
Do you talk to your horse? If so, your speaking style matters, according to new research by Lea Lansade, PhD, and colleagues from Université de Tours in France. The article, “Horses are sensitive to baby talk: pet‐directed speech facilitates communication with humans in a pointing task and during grooming,” was published in the March 2021 issue of Animal Cognition.
This is the first study to provide evidence that human speech style can affect equine behavior. Lansade was particularly interested in the use of pet-directed speech (PDS) with horses. PDS has the same sound qualities as baby talk (also called infant-directed speech [IDS], Motherese, and Parentese). This style of speaking has a distinctive vocal signature, with a high pitch and slow rate.
PDS captures a horse’s attention and improves human-horse communication The research began with a social media survey. Most horse owners who responded to the survey claimed to talk to their horse using PDS, but fewer than half thought the horse was actually sensitive to it. The researchers then conducted two experiments with 20 Welsh mares comparing the effects of PDS and adult-directed speech (ADS). They found that:...
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