Have you ever wondered if it is it really possible that dogs can read facial expression? Scientist have and they illustrate their answer in a recent study.
These researchers from the University of Helsinki conducted a test-study, in order to understand how dogs interpret the facial expressions. For this purpose, they studied the staring patterns of 31 dogs that represented 13 breeds. These dogs were presented with a series of images to make the deduction, as Clovis News Journal recently reported.
In what concerns ‘the tools’ of this study, the research used a piece of equipment that can observe and track how dogs move and use their eyes. This specific tool was used to identify the manner that dogs look at facial expressions.
The curious results of this experiment show that dogs looked longer at the dog faces that appeared threatening and they looked away from the human faces that gave the same expression.
However, researcher Sanni Somppi remains neutral as she is stating that the tolerant behaviour of dogs toward humans may explain these results. Leaded by Sanni’s theory, let’s take domestication for example: the dogs gain a certain sensitivity during the process of domestication, after which they can easily detect the threat signals of humans and respond to them.
An interesting fact that the scientists have noticed is that the dogs analyze and interpret the facial expressions by looking at the face, but focusing especially on the eyes.
Another good-to-know result following this study is that different facial expression that were shown to ‘the participants’ made them change their viewing behavior, especially if the face illustrated looked angry. When the humans pictured in those patterns had an enraged expression, dogs preferred to look away.
An explanation for this reaction might be the fact that it is due to their evolutionary response to detecting threat signals to be able to survive.
As the dogs participating to this interesting experiment were ‘asked’ to stay still in the video camera and look at the series of photographs, the lab scientist noticed something else. The quadrupeds looked at the eyes first and their gaze lingered longer than the mouth or nose area, as if they were trying to capture the whole emotion.
As reported by Health, the study was published in PLoS One and is the first ever recorded study of emotion-related staring patterns in a non-primate animal.
As if this study wasn’t enough to prove that dogs are really amazing animals, another research has been made, using MRI scans of dogs. This other experiment showed that the animals are even capable of being affectionate with their owners for reasons beyond food and security, according to Daily Mail.
All in all, the answer to the question in the title is “yes, the dogs can read facial expressions” and “yes, the dogs truly are man’s best friends.”
Image Source: dailymail.co.uk