and people who live with dogs are not one bit surprised.
Researchers who conducted a new study say dogs are capable of understanding the emotions behind an expression on a human face. For example, if a dog turns its head to the left, it could be picking up that someone is angry, fearful or happy. If there is a look of surprise on a person’s face, dogs tend to turn their head to the right. The heart rates of dogs also go up when they see someone who is having a bad day…the study is the latest to reveal just how connected dogs are with people. The research also provides evidence that dogs use different parts of their brains to process human emotions.
Researchers observed what happened when they presented photographs of the same two adults’ faces (a man and a woman) to 26 feeding dogs. The images were placed strategically to the sides of the animals’ line of sight and the photos showed a human face expressing one of the six basic human emotions: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust or being neutral.
The dogs showed greater response and cardiac activity when shown photographs that expressed arousing emotional states such as anger, fear and happiness. They also took longer to resume feeding after seeing these images. The dogs’ increased heart rate indicated that in these cases they experienced higher levels of stress.
In addition, dogs tended to turn their heads to the left when they saw human faces expressing anger, fear or happiness. The reverse happened when the faces looked surprised, possibly because dogs view it as a non-threatening, relaxed expression. These findings therefore support the existence of an asymmetrical emotional modulation of dogs’ brains to process basic human emotions.
Journal Reference: Marcello Siniscalchi, Serenella d’Ingeo, Angelo Quaranta. Orienting asymmetries and physiological reactivity in dogs’ response to human emotional faces. Learning & Behavior, 2018; DOI: 10.3758/s13420-018-0325-2