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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Great reason to go to Ireland this month

cat animated GIFBy Marc Abrahams, Improbable Research 

The world’s ongoing research effort to understand cat meows will center, for a shining moment in May, on Dublin, Ireland.The assembled delegates there will hear about this study:

“A Study of Human Perception of Intonation in Domestic Cat Meows,” Susanne Schötz and Joost van de Weijer, [paper to be presented at the conference] Proceedings of the 7th international conference on Speech Prosody, Dubin, Ireland, May 20-23, 2014. (Thanks to investigator Daniela Müller for bringing this to our attention.) The researchers explain:

“This study examined human listeners’ ability to classify domestic cat vocalisations (meows) recorded in two different contexts; during feeding time (food related meows) and while waiting to visit a veterinarian (vet related meows). A pitch analysis showed a tendency for food related meows to have rising F0 contours, while vet related meows tended to have more falling F0 contours. 30 listeners judged twelve meows (six of each context) in a perception test. Classification accuracy was significantly above chance, and lis- teners who had reported previous experience with cats performed significantly better than inexperienced listeners. Moreover, the two food related meows with the highest classification accuracy showed clear rising F0 contours, while clear falling F0 contours characterised the two vet related meows that received the highest classification accuracy. Listeners also reported that some meows were very easy to classify, while others were more diffcult. Taken together, these results suggest that cats may use different intonation patterns in their vocal interaction with humans, and that humans are able to identify the vocalisations based on intonation.”
Dr. Schötz is renowned, in the cat meow perception research community, for her earlier work on the subject, especially:

A phonetic pilot study of chirp, chatter, tweet and tweedle in three domestic cats,” Susanne Schötz , in Eklund, R. (Ed.), 2013, (pp. 65-68). Linköping University.

Here are details from that study:

BONUS: At the same session in Dublin, immediately following the cat meow perception presentation, delegates will be treated to an only distantly related research report:

“Observation of so-called “pursed-lip” and “curled-lip” utterances in Japanese, using video and MRI images,” Chunyue Zhu, Toshiyuki Sadanobu.