How dogs can recognize human feelings

Calling all dog proprietors: does your four-legged friend appear to understand when you’re feeling sad, happy or angry? If that’s the case, new research may explain why dogs recognize human feelings by applying different physical information – the capability that, so far, only has been recognized in primates and humans.

[Dog and owner]
Dogs combine sensory information to identify the emotional states of both dogs and humans, say researchers.

Previous research claims that dogs’ capability to differentiate between human feelings is lower to “affiliate behavior” – that they link certain emotional states to facial expressions or any other cues they have learned.

But based on study coauthor Prof. Daniel Mills – from the School of Existence Sciences in the UK’s College of Lincoln subsequently – and co-workers, their research challenges this theory.

“It’s been a lengthy-standing debate whether dogs can recognize human feelings,” notes Prof. Mills. “Many dog proprietors report anecdotally their pets appear highly responsive to the emotions of human family people.”

“However, there’s an essential distinction between associative behavior, for example understanding how to respond properly for an angry voice, and realizing a variety of completely different cues which go together to point emotional arousal in another,” he adds.

“Our findings are the initial to exhibit that dogs truly recognize feelings in humans along with other dogs.”

Dogs combine sensory info to form mental image of emotional states

For his or her study, printed within the journal Biology Letters, they demonstrated 17 domestic dogs images of both humans along with other dogs exhibiting positive (happy or playful) or negative (angry or aggressive) emotional expressions.

Plus the picture presentation, the scientists also performed negative or positive audio clips (voices or barks) from unfamiliar human and canine subjects.

The team found that when the dogs were shown a picture that matched the emotional state of an audio clip – for example, if an angry voice matched an angry facial expression – they spent much longer looking at it. This was the case for both human and canine pictures and audio clips.

They states their findings indicate that dogs combine different physical information to create a mental portrayal from the good and bad emotional states of humans and canines.

Study coauthor Dr. Kun Guo, in the School of Psychology at Lincoln subsequently, describes:

“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs.

To do so requires a system of internal categorization of emotional states. This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”

Prof. Mills notes the dogs within the study didn’t have prior training and were not really acquainted with a persons and canine subjects within the pictures and audio clips, recommending that dogs’ capability to use different causes of physical information might be natural.

“Like a highly social species, this type of tool could have been beneficial, and also the recognition of emotion in humans might even happen to be selected for more than decades of domestication by us,” he adds.

This past year, Medical News Today reported on the study that stated to describe why we’re not able to face up to dogs’ famous “puppy eyes” glare.