Monday, 24 January 2011

dogs can read our faces

I'm watching a BBC show called 'The Secret Life of Dogs'. One of the fascinating parts is about the theory that dogs have developed the ability to read the emotions shown in the human face. In experiments, dogs were looking left, at the right side of a human face shown on a screen.

I didn't know that we don't show our emotions symmetrically - apparently the left and right side of our faces take different positions. When we look at another person we tend to look to our left, at the right side of that person's face. And dogs do the same thing, even though they don't look towards the right side of another dog's face when they meet it. In other words, dogs have developed the ability to read our faces, as they have evolved with us. Here's a clip of that part of the show. I felt a little disturbed by the apparatus on the muzzle and head of the dog in study at the University of Lincoln, but the dog did appear quite happy and wasn't restrained, so I guess it was used to the apparatus. The part about facial recognition starts at the 4:46 mark on the clip.

At this site you can see a list of the different 'chapters' of the programme, but there are only two clips - and they won't work for me here in Australia.

3 comments:

euthymic said...

Thanks for the interesting information. I noticed one of my dogs knows when I feel sad, she forces me to look straight into her eyes and then I really cry. Dogs are the best!

curator said...

Hm. I wonder if cats do, too.

Oscar the Maltese said...

My human loved this show! She tries to test my intelligence by making faces at me but I really only understand the most obvious body language (playing, stalking etc). However, she's noticed that her friend's German Shepherd can understand facial expressions too. I guess I'm not the smartest doggie in the world after all...