Scientists debate how and if animals talk to us – even if we understand them just fine
- August 3, 2021
- Nora Bradford, cog sci, courtesy of The Orange County Register
Move over Dr. Doolittle. After spending a year indoors with our pets, we might think we can talk with the animals better than ever before. We interpret certain barks as excitement, certain meows as anger.
But what if our pets are actually trying to talk to us?
Scroll through social media enough and you’ll come across an Instagram-famous dog named Stella. Why is she famous? Well, Stella’s owner, Christina Hunger, is a speech language pathologist and wondered whether she could teach her dog to talk. Using a few buttons with voice-recorded words on them (like the “That was easy” button that seemingly everyone bought from Staples in the 1990s), Hunger taught Stella to press them to communicate her wants and needs. When she’s hungry, she can press “eat” and when she wants to go for a walk, she can press “outside.”
Over the years, the collection of a few buttons expanded to a huge network of 48. In one of her most recent videos, Stella presses “No. Outside. Come. Outside.” to which Hunger responds, “You’re right, we haven’t been out yet.”