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Dog knows your mood just by looking at your face

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Dogs can tell the difference between our happy and angry faces, a new
study has revealed, providing the first evidence that canines can
distinguish between emotional expressions in another species.
Image: Anjuli Barber, Messerli Research Institute
To verify whether the dogs could tell the difference between our
expressions, researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine
Vienna in Austria showed dogs photos of just the upper or lower half of
someone’s face.
“We think the dogs in our study could have solved
the task only by applying their knowledge of emotional expressions in
humans to the unfamiliar pictures we presented to them,” said one of the researchers, Corsin Müller.
Scientists have previously tried to test whether dogs could read our expressions, but the results were always unconvincing.
In the new study, the researchers trained dogs to tell the difference
between photos of 15 people making either a happy or angry face. The
pups were so good at it, that they were able to tell whether someone was
happy or angry when looking at only half their face.
After
training, they could even work out the difference in expressions when
they looked at photos of people they’d never seen before.
In every
case, the dogs were able to select the angry or happy face, depending
on what they’d been directed, more often than would be expected by
random chance. The results have now been published in Current Biology.
“Our
study demonstrates that dogs can distinguish angry and happy
expressions in humans, they can tell that these two expressions have
different meanings, and they can do this not only for people they know
well, but even for faces they have never seen before,” said Ludwig Huber, the senior author of the study.

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It’s still not clear what the dogs think our different expressions
mean, but in the study, the dogs were slower to learn to associate an
angry face with a reward, which suggests they already were conditioned
to stay away from someone who looks angry.
“It appears likely to
us that the dogs associate a smiling face with a positive meaning and an
angry facial expression with a negative meaning,” said Huber.
The
team is now planning to study more about how a dog’s experience can
affect their ability to recognise human emotions, and also how the
emotions of an owner influences the emotions of their dog.
“We
expect to gain important insights into the extraordinary bond between
humans and one of their favorite pets, and into the emotional lives of
animals in general,” said Müller.
Source: ScienceDaily

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