Intuitive Interspecies Communication (IIC): What is it?
IIC is a method of exchanging information with non-human animals1 using a highly complex set of intuitive skills. IIC occurs across many cultures and is growing in use in contemporary wildlife rehabilitation and conservation, as well as veterinary care. It is also often used for resolving human-animal conflicts. Illustrations of IIC are reported across many fields and cultures, but it is currently under-researched2.
Our working defintion of Intuitive interspecies communication (IIC) is as follows:
"IIC presents as a detailed, non-verbal and non-physical form of communication between humans and other animals. Drawing on a diversity of intuitive capacities, IIC includes the mutual exchange of visceral feelings, emotions, mental impressions and thoughts, embodied sensations of touch, smell, taste, sound, as well as visuals in the mind’s eye. While these exchanges can occur while in direct physical proximity to the animal, they can also occur over great distances and without the need for visual, auditory, olfactory, voice or other cues that humans normally associate with direct interactive communication" (Barrett et al. 2021, p. 151).
1for simplicity of language, we use the word ‘animal’ to represent animals who are other-than-human.
2At this time, we are focusing on animal-human IIC, but the phenomenon is also known to be linked to interactions with plants and other beings of the land, water and skies.
Download our paper: Barrett, M.J., Hinz, V., Wijngaarden, V. & Lovrod, M. (2021). ‘Speaking’ with Other Animals through Intuitive Interspecies Communication: Towards Cognitive and Interspecies Justice'. In Eds. Alice Hovorka, Sandra McCubbin and Lauren Van Patter. A Research Agenda for Animal Geographies, Chapter 10. UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Or watch the short video summarizing key points of the paper here.
- Transforming animal-human relationships;
- Expanding respect for and understanding of animals and their capacities;
Multiple Ways of Knowing
- Practical response to increasing calls for research methods that include animals’ perspectives;
- Expanding understandings of who animals are (ontology of the animal);
- Increasing connection to and respect for those who are not human;
- Contributions to “reconciliation with Earth” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Summary Report, 2015, p. 18);
Implications for Policy and Practice
- Doing research with animals rather than on them;
- Developing processes for asking consent from animals to participate in research and other activities;
- Potential for transformative comprehension of traditional Indigenous understandings of animals.
We don’t actually know how this works yet so that’s why we are studying it. To understand the nature of the phenomenon and its dynamics, we first need to build in-depth knowledge about IIC from the perspective of those who do it regularly. Through comprehensive interviews and artistic representations of intuitive communication sessions with experienced professional animal communicators, doctoral candidate Viktoria Hinz is seeking to gain an in-depth understanding of what animal communicators do and experience as they engage in intuitive exchanges with animals. Using a case study approach, master's student Sydney Kuppenbender is pursuing the question: how are animal communicators (ACs) engaging with wildlife? Hinz's descriptive phenomenological study will provide important baseline understandings of the human side of the experience of intuitive interspecies communication (IIC). Kuppenbender's research will provide a basis for understanding diverse ways professional animal communicators work with wildlife -- knowledge she will bring to Indigenous Elders, land managers and community members. At a later time, when funding is in place, we would love to develop a study examining animals’ perspectives on IIC.
IIC Webinar Series
Demystifying the Research Process: What do Intuitive Interspecies Communication (IIC) Researchers Do? (PART 1)
This event was created based on conversations at the International Multispecies Research Methods Symposium held in May 2022. The audience of this webinar series included researchers, animal communicators and animal care providers who are, or may be, interested in conducting research on Intuitive Interspecies Communication (IIC) and contributing to productive discussion on the topic.
Hosted Online by: University of Saskatchewan, School of Environment and Sustainability and University of Guelph, Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition.
- overview of different general approaches to research and a typical research cycle
- examples of completed and in-process studies
Host/Facilitator: Dr.’s Andrea Breen & M.J. Barrett
- Andrea Breen, PhD, University of Guelph
- Viktoria Hinz, PhD candidate, University of Saskatchewan
- Vanessa Wijngaarden, PhD, University of Johannesburg
- Johanna Ballé, PhD, Intuiteurs sans Frontières
Date/Time: October 5th, 2022 11am -1pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time (Toronto/New York)
Recording: You may view the recording of this webinar here.
Demystifying the Research Process: What do Intuitive Interspecies Communication (IIC) Researchers Do? (PART 2)
This webinar was a follow up discussion to the questions and issues raised in the October 5th webinar (Part 1) - Demystifying the Research Process: What do IIC researchers do? We begin with an introduction to the webinar by Ipek Kulahci, PhD, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University. Then there were three breakout sessions that took place concurrently.
Session 1: IIC in wildlife sanctuaries and animal shelters
- Facilitated by Johanna Ballé, PhD, Intuiteurs sans Frontières.
Session 2: IIC researcher and practitioner partnerships
- Facilitated by Andrea Breen, PhD, University of Guelph & MJ Barrett, PhD, University of Saskatchewan
Session 3: Animals as collaborators during IIC research
- Facilitated by Vanessa Wijngaarden, PhD, University of Johannesburg
Date/Time: November 22, 2022 10am -12pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time (Toronto/New York)
Recording: You may view the recording of this webinar here.
Please join us at the 2nd International Multispecies Methods Research Symposium focusing on Intuitive Interspecies communication, April - May 2023. Pre-viewing of submissions begins April 8th. Live events May 8-12. Access to symposium recordings will be available to registrants until the end of March, 2024.