Age, empathy, familiarity, domestication and call features enhance human perception of animal emotion expressions

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Fulltext

    Final published version, 641 KB, PDF document

Vocalizations constitute an effective way to communicate both emotional arousal (bodily activation) and valence (negative/positive). There is strong evidence suggesting that the convergence of vocal expression of emotional arousal among animal species occurs, hence enabling cross-species perception of arousal, but it is not clear if the same is true for emotional valence. Here, we conducted a large online survey to test the ability of humans to perceive emotions in the contact calls of several wild and domestic ungulates produced in situations of known emotional arousal (previously validated using either heart rate or locomotion) and valence (validated based on the context of production and behavioural indicators of emotions). Participants (1024 respondents from 48 countries) were able to rate above chance levels the arousal level of vocalizations of three of the six ungulate species and the valence of four of them. Percentages of correct ratings did not differ a lot across species for arousal (49-59%), while they showed much more variation for valence (33-68%). Interestingly, several factors such as age, empathy, familiarity and specific features of the calls enhanced these scores. These findings suggest the existence of a shared emotional system across mammalian species, which is much more pronounced for arousal than valence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number221138
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number12
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors.

    Research areas

  • arousal, cross-species, emotions, ungulates, valence, vocalizations

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 330194126