According to a study from the University of Helsinki, published in the scientific journal PloS ONE, domestic dogs systematically analyze facial expressions, focusing on the eyes, in their social relationships. In addition, facial expressions change their viewing behavior, especially in front of threatening faces.
The study used tracking views to show how dogs see emotional expressions on canine and human faces . Dogs first looked at the area around the eyes and usually looked at it longer than the area of the nose or mouth.
“A strategy of tolerant behavior of dogs towards people can partially explain the results. Domestication could equip dogs with sensitivity to detect human threatening signals and respond with strong calming signals, ”says researcher Sanni Somppi from the University of Helsinki.
A total of 31 dogs of 13 different breeds participated in the study
The researchers found that the specific characteristics of the species drew attention to certain expressions, such as the mouths of threatening dogs.
Threatening faces have evoked a attention bias that may be based on an evolutionary mechanism of adaptation: sensitivity to detection and avoidance of threats is an advantage of survival.
Interestingly, the behavior of the dogs according to sight depended on the species shown: the faces of the threatening experts elicited a longer look than in the case of a threat to human faces, instead of a response of avoidance.
Darwin was right …
The results supported Charles Darwin’s view of animal feelings. This is the first evidence of patterns of gaze associated with feelings in “non-primates”. 150 years ago, Darwin proposed that analogies in the form and function of human and animal emotional expressions suggest that they share evolutionary roots.