Have you ever felt like your dog can read your emotions and feelings better than anyone else?
Turns out, dogs are indeed capable of understanding the emotions behind an expression written all over your face. Dogs seem to be gifted with intimate knowledge of our souls!
Dogs are amazing
A new study conducted by Springer and published in the journal Learning & Behavior is latest to reveal how connected dogs can be with people. The study claims that dogs process negative and positive emotions cued by human facial expressions using different parts of their brain.
Next time you see your dog turning the head to the left, it could be picking up that you are angry, fearful or happy. And if there is a look of surprise on your face, your dog might turn the head to the right.
Marcello Siniscalchi, Serenella d'Ingeo and Angelo Quaranta of the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy say that the heart rates of dogs also go up when they see someone having a bad day. This research provides evidence on how the dogs react to human emotions use different parts of their brain.
Dogs have developed specific skills to interact and communicate effectively with humans by living in close contact with humans. What is more amazing is that the dogs' brain is capable of picking up cues from a person's body odour and posture, voice, and ready their faces.
How did they conclude?
The study conducted on 26 feeding dogs by presenting photographs of the same two adults' faces - a man and a woman. The pictures were placed strategically to the sides of the animals' line of sight. The images showed human face expressing six basic human emotions - anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust or being neutral.
The dogs showed increased cardiac activity and greater response when they were shown images of faces expressing anger, fear, and happiness. The time taken to resume feeding were longer after looking at these images. The higher heart rate in these dogs indicated that they were experiencing high-stress levels.
In addition to increased heart rates, the dogs tended to turn their head left when the images shown expressed anger, fear or happiness. When the faces looked surprised, possibly because dogs view it as a non-threatening, relaxed expression, their head turned towards the right.
The findings thus support the existence of an asymmetrical emotional modulation of dogs' brains to process basic emotions of humans.
Siniscalchi said, "Clearly arousing, negative emotions seem to be processed by the right hemisphere of a dog's brain, and more positive emotions by the left side."
These latest findings only support the other studies on dogs and other mammals. The right side of the brain, in fact, supports and plays an important role in regulating the sympathetic outflow to the heart. To control of the 'fight or flight' behavioural response necessary for survival, this organ is vital.