Soundboard-using pets?

Interaction Studies 24 (2):311-334 (2023)
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Abstract

The first studies that sought to establish two-way communication between humans and great apes led to important findings but were nevertheless heavily criticized for their training methods, testing procedures, and claims. More recently, hundreds of pet owners around the world have begun training domesticated animals to use Augmentative Interspecies Communication (AIC) soundboard devices, contributing to the first ever large-scale study on interspecies communication. Here, we introduce our scientific approach to our global citizen science project, where we will investigate how dogs and cats use AIC devices, building an incremental research program starting from their associative learning of buttons to determining how AIC device use might impact their welfare and their capacity for symbolic representation. We discuss how our multi-faceted approach can alleviate many of the concerns regarding the original studies performed with apes, achieving larger sample sizes, ample documentation of training techniques, and testing animals’ performance in controlled experimental settings.

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