US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Have you ever thought that your emotional state is consonant with your dog’s mood – or vice versa? Scientists conducted a series of experiments in which dogs showed signs of understanding what a person or dog feels – joy or anger, based on facial expressions and speech.
A study published in the journal Biology Letters aims to examine the emotional connection between a person and a dog. It involved 17 domestic dogs selected for two rounds of laboratory experiments.
In the first stage, each dog was placed in front of two screens with images of a dog or person with a happy or angry facial expression. Then, some kind of soundtrack was added to the images – a fervent or aggressive barking for dogs and a phrase in an unfamiliar language (Brazilian Portuguese) for a person pronounced joyfully or angrily.
When the image and sound match the mood (for example, happy facial expressions and joyful barking), the dogs looked at the screens longer than in cases where the facial expression did not match the sound.
Their attention served as evidence that dogs are able to recognize emotions.
On the other hand, when dogs heard a neutral sound, the animals lost interest and began to look around instead of looking at the screen – an indicator that the animals correctly recognized the lack of emotions.
Research leader Natalia de Souza Albuquerque from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, believes that the ability of dogs to establish emotional relationships with people and dogs is not instinct or learned behavior, but rather a sign of cognitive ability.
“The dogs had to extract information from the sound and then connect it with the image. It involves complex psychological mechanisms,” she says.
Researchers also found that dogs better recognize their cousins’ emotions in appearance than people’s emotions.
“It turned out quite interesting, since it is logical to assume that dogs initially have this ability [to establish an emotional connection] and actively use and develop it to interact with people,” noted Albuquerque.
People and dogs have lived side by side for at least 10 thousand years, and as these relationships develop, evolution has apparently given dogs the ability to read out the needs and emotions of their owners.
In the next step, Albuquerque plans to study the emotional reactions of dogs and how they use their understanding of emotions to communicate with people. For example, a series of studies have already been organized on how well pets can know their owners in order to manipulate them.
“They are very adapted to the human world and the human emotional world,” she says.
A similar study was recently conducted by the British, who found out how dogs learned to sad puppy eyes .
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