Man’s best friend might be smarter than we all think. Austria researchers indicate that dogs can easily differentiate between happy and sad/angry human faces. By just half a face, a common dog is able to tell whether or not you are happy or sad.
According to the authors of this study who saw their work being published in the current Biology journal, this is the first concrete piece of evidence that shows animals have the ability to read a human being’s expressions.
The experiment which was conducted in Vienna saw the researchers train dogs by first showing them the upper half of a person’s face or his/her lower part. The faces which were shown to the dog were both happy and sad with the lower part of the face being dominated by the mouth and the upper face by the eyes.
A test to determine the ability of the dogs to differentiate between a happy and sad human expression was conducted by showing them different pictures that the doge had not seen before.
As per the research, the dogs were able to determine an angry and a happy face.
“We can rule out that the dogs simply discriminated [between] the pictures based on a simple salient cue, such as the visibility of teeth. Instead, our results suggest that the successful dogs realized that a smiling mouth means the same thing as smiling eyes," said study author Corsin Müller.
Corsin Muller is an animal behavior researcher at Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.
"To us, the most likely explanation appears to be that the basis lies in the life-long co-habitation of dogs with humans, during which dogs get a lot of exposure to human facial expressions," she said.