Age-related positivity effect on behavioural responses of dogs to human vocalisations
Efeito de positividade relacionado à idade nas respostas comportamentais de cães a vocalizações humanas
Iris Smit, Dora Szabo, Enikő Kubinyi
Age-related changes in the brain can alter how emotions are processed. In humans, valence specific changes in attention and memory were reported with increasing age, i.e. older people are less attentive toward and experience fewer negative emotions, while processing of positive emotions remains intact. Little is yet known about this “positivity effect” in non-human animals. We tested young (n = 21, 1–5 years) and old (n = 19, >10 years) family dogs with positive (laugh), negative (cry), and neutral (hiccup, cough) human vocalisations and investigated age-related differences in their behavioural reactions. Only dogs with intact hearing were analysed and the selected sound samples were balanced regarding mean and fundamental frequencies between valence categories. Compared to young dogs, old individuals reacted slower only to the negative sounds and there was no significant difference in the duration of the reactions between groups. The selective response of the aged dogs to the sound stimuli suggests that the results cannot be explained by general cognitive and/or perceptual decline. and supports the presence of an age-related positivity effect in dogs, too. Similarities in emotional processing between humans and dogs may imply analogous changes in subcortical emotional processing in the canine brain during ageing.