We intuitively knew it already, yet the study confirming dogs feel their owners’ emotions is finally here to bring unquestionable proof. A collaborative effort of researchers from the University of São Paulo, Brazil and Lincoln University, UK brought about these endearing and exciting results.
When you walk into the room being angry, happy or pensive and you meet your dog’s look saying ‘I know what’s going with you’, you already know you share a special connection. Apt readers of human emotions, dogs don’t simply exhibit learned behaviors. The authors of the study confirming dogs feel their owners’ emotions stated that this proves cognitive ability enhanced by information from more sensory sources.
Different senses help man’s best friend in recognizing human emotions. Except for our species, dogs are the only other creatures to have the cognitive ability to recognize human emotions. They’re clearly in the advantage here. Can you brag about accurately guessing your dog’s emotional states?
During the experiment supervised by the joint Brazilian-British team, 17 dogs were tested for recognizing human emotions. Mind you, none of the dogs had received any previous training, nor was it familiarized with what was about to happen.
Each of the dogs were shown pairs of images. One image would depict a person in a positive emotional state, while the other a negative emotional state. The auditive background to the images was represented by someone saying ‘Venha ca’ (come here in Portuguese). The tone used when uttering the calling was either cheerful or angry.
According to the research team comprising both psychologists and animal behavior experts, the dogs proved that they can form abstract mental representations of emotional states. When the angry-toned message was played, most of the dogs looked towards the image depicting an angry person. The same was valid for the cheerful message being associated easily with the image depicting a happy person.
Moreover, the dogs listened to recordings of dogs barking aggressively or friendly and recognized their respective tone immediately. This is isn’t the first study to highlight dog’s ability to guess human emotions by looking at their owner’s face. However, it is the first to prove that it isn’t just facial cues which are at play. Rather, it’s a host of cues derived from different sensory sources building up the ability to form abstract mental representations.
The study is published in the journal Biology Letters.
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