It seems that scientists have finally realised what we at PetsPyjamas and all dog lovers have known for a long time, that people are able to precisely identify a range of emotions in dogs from changes in their facial expressions.
The study, led by psychologist Dr Tina Bloom, used photographs of a police dog named Mal, a five-year-old Belgian Shepherd, as it experienced different emotions. So, to trigger a happy reaction, researchers praised Mal which resulted in the dog looking straight at the camera with his tongue out and ears up. To generate surprise a jack-in-the-box was used and caused the dog to wrinkle the top if its head into something similar to that of a frown.
Dr Tina Bloom told the Telegraph, “There is no doubt that humans have the ability to recognise emotional states in other humans and accurately read other humans’ facial expressions. We have shown that humans are also able to accurately – if not perfectly – identify at least one dog’s facial expressions.
“Although humans often think of themselves as disconnected or even isolated from nature, our study suggests that there are patterns that connect, and one of these is in the form of emotional communication.”
The photographs were shown to 50 volunteers, who were divided into two groups depending on their experience of dogs. The emotion that was correctly identified the most was happiness with 88 per cent of the volunteers recognising the reaction. Anger was identified by 70 per cent, while only 37 per cent of participants correctly identified the emotion of sadness. The hardest expressions were surprise and disgust, with just 20 per cent of volunteers identifying surprise and 13 per cent recognising disgust.
From this study, Dr Bloom is hoping that further research might determine whether this natural empathy humans have with dogs is something that we share with all mammals or it is due to the fact that humans and dogs have been evolving side by side for the past 100,000 years.
For Beverley Cuddy, the editor of Dogs Today, she told the Telegraph that dog lovers would feel vindicated by the research. “I am not at all surprised that science has finally accepted what we knew all along — dog and owner communicate perfectly well without words.”
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