Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Happy Face

Is it really true?  Can our dogs read our faces to tell if we are happy or angry?
A recent study says YES!


Most of us think, whether we will admit it publically or not, that our dogs can read our facial expressions.  There is finally some exciting research to back this up.  A team of Austrian researchers led by biologist Corsin Muller put 11 dogs to the test.  They began by training the dogs to touch happy faces or angry faces on a computer using treats to reward them.  It gets more complicated, though.  The dogs were not given the whole face, rather only either the top or the bottom part of the face so that they discerned the nuances that differentiate happy and angry faces (i.e., not only the smile).

While the pups were able to determine the differences between the faces, the ones who were rewarded for touching the happy faces learned more quickly.  This, the researchers theorize, was because they find angry faces aversive and they retreat.  But the dogs in both positions did eventually learn to discern the faces.  Their new learning was then put to the test in four test conditions:
1.     The same half of the face as in the training, except the face was a different person
2.     The other side of the face they saw in the training
3.     The other half of the new faces
4.     The left half of the faces (because previous research shows that dogs have a preference for the left side of the face) 
The dogs, for the most part, were able to identify the correct faces in all four conditions.  This shows that they not only learned to distinguish angry and happy faces, but they could transfer this knowledge to faces of people they had never seen before. 

For a great article on this study, click here.

And to find the actual article, click here.

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