Emotions play a crucial role in an animal’s life because they facilitate responses to external or internal events of significance for the organism. In social species, one of the main functions of emotional expression is to regulate social interactions. There has recently been a surge of interest in animal emotions in several disciplines, ranging from neuroscience to evolutionary zoology. Because measurements of subjective emotional experiences are not possible in animals, researchers use neurophysiological, behavioural and cognitive indicators. However, good indicators, particularly of positive emotions, are still lacking. Vocalizations are linked to the inner state of the caller. The emotional state of the caller causes changes in the muscular tension and action of its vocal apparatus, which in turn, impacts on vocal parameters of vocalizations. By considering the mode of production of vocalizations, we can understand and predict how vocal parameters should change according to the arousal (intensity) or valence (positive/negative) of emotional states. In this paper, I review the existing literature on vocal correlates of emotions in mammals. Non-human mammals could serve as ideal models to study vocal expression of emotions, because, contrary to human speech, animal vocalizations are assumed to be largely free of control and therefore direct expressions of underlying emotions. Furthermore, a comparative approach between humans and other animals would give us a better understanding of how emotion expression evolved. Additionally, these non-invasive indicators could serve various disciplines that require animal emotions to be clearly identified, including psychopharmacology and animal welfare science.
Briefer, E. F. (2012). Vocal expression of emotions in mammals: mechanisms of production and evidence. Journal of Zoology, 288(1), 1-20.