New Study Proves Dogs Recognize Human Emotion

It has often been told in anecdotes and personal pooch stories that dogs can sense when you’re happy, upset, or in need of some major cuddling. When my 17-year-old lovebird died, my dog Kika didn’t leave my heartbroken side for a good hour or two. That and many other situations made me truly believe that dogs can recognize many human emotions, one of them being sadness. Although the concept that dogs can sense human emotion has been said, no study has scientifically proven this theory… until now.

Related: If You’re Happy And You Know It… So Does Your Dog!

Natural behavior specialists from the University of Lincoln in the UK and University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, have recently published their study findings, which state that dogs can recognize human emotion.

Past studies have proven that canines can identify human emotions from cues such as facial expressions, but it isn’t the same as emotional recognition. It’s also important to note the difference between emotional recognition and associative behavior, as Professor Daniel Mills from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln explains. Associative behavior is learning what response is appropriate for, for example, an angry voice. This study does not focus on that, but rather proves that dogs recognize emotions in humans and other dogs.

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The study involved taking 17 untrained, domestic dogs and showed them photos of facial expressions and played audio clips conveying different combinations of positive and negative emotions in both dogs and humans. The result? The dogs looked significantly longer at the facial expression of the human or dog that matched the emotional state of the audio clip.

Dr. Kun Guo, researcher from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, says that dogs can take two different sources of sensory information, facial expressions and voices/barks, and recognize emotions. In order for dogs to do this, they require “a system of internal categorization of emotional states.” This cognitive ability has only been seen before in primates, and the capacity to do this across the entire species has only been found in humans.

[Source: Science Daily]



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