Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Domesticated Foxes Developing Laughter To Please Us

Domesticated Foxes Laugh with You (and Without You). Lee Alan Dugatkin. Psychology Today, Oct 2018,



This part of the story begins in the 1980s when Lyudmila heard some of the domesticated foxes vocalizing in an odd new way, making a high-pitched “haaaaaw, haaaaaw, haw, haw, haw” sound when people approached them. Lyudmila thought it sounded like they were laughing and called it the “ha ha” vocalization. But neither Lyudmila nor the other researchers in the fox study had knowledge of how to study vocalizations, so not much came of the new sounds. Then, in 2005, Lyudmila got a phone call from Svetlana Gogoleva.


[...] What she found was that the “ha ha” sounds mimicked the sound of human laughter very closely. Closer than any other nonhuman vocalization. When she looked at a spectrogram that allowed her to visualize the domesticated fox “ha ha” sound, and a spectrogram of human laughter, she was hard pressed to tell the difference. The similarity was astonishing. Almost eerie. Of course, the domesticated foxes make their “ha ha” sound regardless of what we might consider funny. But that doesn’t change the fact that the domestication experiment has now produced foxes that not only act and look like a lapdog, but will give you a “ha ha” when you need a laugh, as well as when you do not.

Gogoleva and Lyudmila hypothesize that the tame foxes make the “ha ha” sound to attract human attention and prolong interaction with people. Somehow, they propose, the tame foxes have become adept at pleasing us by the sound of our own laughter. How, they don’t know, but a more pleasant way for one species to bond with another is hard to imagine.

Check also Smiles as Multipurpose Social Signals. Jared Martin et al. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, and references therein.

No comments:

Post a Comment