Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What we got here, is a failure to communicate...

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Just like any proud human mother, I was convinced my cat Galway was smarter than other cats. She actually seemed to communicate with me aside from the "I'm hungry" and "I'm bored" and "It's midnight; where the h*** have you been?" meows. And often after I finally figured out what she wanted, I thought I caught a glimpse of a "finally, you dummy" look on her face. Now she lives with my parents, and nearly every phone call home includes a story of the latest intelligent thing my cat has done. 

The University of Sussex recently concluded a study that states what most cat owners know from prior experience. When it comes to control of the household, cats are in charge. A researcher at the university discovered cats embed an urgent cry inside their meow that subtly plays off humans' response to a baby crying. Apparently this cry is always in the meow, but once cats learn humans respond favorably to it, they learn to exaggerate the sound when they want something. According to Yahoo! News, this type of solicitation cry is more prevalent in a one-to-one household where the cat's cries are harder to ignore and/or do not get lost in general bustle. So, sorry Mom and Dad. 

But that story got me thinking about all the ways communication can happen. Cats and babies express needs through crying. People generally express pain/distress through swear words. It's often involuntary - you stub your toe or shut your finger in a door, and the first thing out of your mouth is usually four-lettered. Yahoo! News had an article on Sunday that explained swearing can actually make it easier to bear the pain of injury. Participants in a study were asked to immerse a hand in ice water while swearing. A control group did the same but saying a benign word. Those who swore held their hands in the water longer (can you imagine being the college student asked to be a part of this study??). 

Multiple ethnicities express themselves in music and dance. Baltic republic Estonia held its Song and Dance Festival on the first weekend of July this year in the hopes it would help the nation turn its collective attention away from its economic troubles. Held every five years, the festival has its roots in Estonians' response to repression first by czarist Russia then 50 years of Soviet occupation. In the 1980s, in what was called the Singing Revolution, the people would gather, sometimes by the thousands, to sing patriotic songs to defy the Soviets (Google News).

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