Study Claims That Most People Can Intuit Chicken Emotions

A study has found that humans can intuitively understand the emotions of chickens. Australian scientists conducted an experiment and published their findings in the Royal Society of Open Science. The research concluded that 7 in 10 people are able to perceive what a chicken is feeling and even interpret the sounds they make.

The experiment involved asking 194 participants to listen to eight different sounds chickens make when they expect a reward and eight when they don’t. The humans were then asked whether the clucks were happy and excited ones or not, and their guesses were right most of the time. People were slightly better at recognizing excited clucks at 71%, but 67% identified the not-so-excited sounds also.

The study’s report states, “Humans perceive emotions across different taxa, and that specific acoustic cues may embody a homologous signaling system among vertebrates.” It went on to say that such knowledge may help people better understand animal welfare so it can be improved.

Human understanding of animals, and vice versa, has long fascinated scientists, but we have very little concrete knowledge. Charlotte Burn, an animal welfare scientist at the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, says the feelings of animals may never be fully understood, so scientists who examine the phenomena should do so while accepting it is “unknowable.” However, science is pretty sure that animals experience anxiety, boredom, and of course, joy.

Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University, argues that while animals do have feelings and emotions, they are not comparable to those of human beings and differ widely among the species. He largely agrees with Charlotte Burn that animal feelings cannot be thoroughly understood because humans will always view them through their own emotions.

He argues that we should look at animals’ survival instincts for greater understanding. “Survival phenomena are closely associated with emotions. We need to focus on a species’ independent way of getting at these key functions,” he said.