Are dogs able to read human emotions?
Man’s best friend may act more like a human than a dog, according to a recent study.
Dogs can recognize human emotions by using different sensory information, according to the study conducted by the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln. Researchers used 17 domestic dogs and showed a combination of images and sounds to portray different types of positive and negative expressions in humans and canines. Along with the pictures, researchers also played happy, playful, angry or aggressive audio clips to the dogs being tested.
The findings showed that when dogs were shown a picture that matched an emotional state of an audio clip, they would spend much longer looking at it. For example, if a playful voice matched a happy expression, the dogs would stare at the picture longer.
“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs,” study coauthor Dr. Kun Guo, from the School of Psychology at Lincoln, said in a news release.
The team’s results indicated that dogs combine different sensory information to form a mental portrayal of the positive and negative emotional states of humans and canines.
Psychiatrists agree that there is now evidence that helps to back up the theory that dogs can pick up on human emotion and react to it.
“Finally, a study that has found a really unique way to show that dogs do have the ability to integrate different sources of sensory information into a coherent reading of human emotion,” says Dr. Chandragupta Vedak, psychiatrist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “Prior to this research, proving dog’s ability to understand and appropriately react to human emotions was a very difficult task.”
Dr. Vedak says that in everyday life, pronouncements of such abilities came from the owners, not exactly an unbiased bunch.
“So, when dog owners attribute all those complex abilities to their four-legged friends, we just force that ‘how cute’ look on our face and move on,” Dr. Vedaks says. “Well, not anymore.”
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