School of Psychology

Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition

We investigate vocal communication and cognitive abilities in mammals. We work on a wide range of mammal species including red deer, domestic horses, African elephants, koalas, dogs and cats and humans.  Our lab is well equipped with cutting edge facilities for recording, analyzing and playing back vocalizations as well as tools for experimental presentation of visual cues. 

People: Karen McComb, David Reby

Lab website: Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research

Anatomical, behavioural and functional bases of the diversity of male sexual vocalisations in terrestrial mammals (deer, marsupials).

  • What is communicated in the main frequency components of sexual vocalizations, and what are the key factors determining their evolution?
  • What is the anatomical basis of inter-sexual and inter-specific variation in the frequency components of terrestrial mammal vocalisations?
  • What is the impact of sexual hormones on sexual vocal signals?

Social intelligence and emotional awareness in horses

    • What abilities do horses have to discern differences in emotional state in other horses and humans and how does this relate to their social success?
    • To what extent do horses combine auditory and visual information cross-modally when responding to cues to individuality and emotion in conspecifics and humans?
    • How well can horses read cues to attention in conspecifics and humans and what specific features do they attend to?

The behavioural bases of the expression of gender in the human voice

  • Can adult and children speakers control the quality of their voice to express their gender, or gender-related attributes?
  • How does the expression and perception of voice gender vary between cultures?
  • When, and how do children develop the ability to perceive and express voice gender?

Leadership and decision making in elephants

    • What are the factors affecting social and ecological knowledge in African elephants in the wild and how do they influence decision-making?
    • How does past social trauma and disruption influence current cognitive abilities?
    • How does the matriarch exert influence on the decision making process

Communication and cognitive abilities in domestic dogs and cats

  • How do domestic dogs perceive verbal and nonverbal information in human vocal signals?
  • Are domestic dogs capable of cross-modally integrating vocal and visual information when responding to cues to size, gender, emotion etc.
  • What information is coded in the purrs of domestic cats and how is this perceived by humans?