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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2016

Authors: Barber, AL; Randi, D; Müller, CA; Huber, L

Title: The Processing of Human Emotional Faces by Pet and Lab Dogs: Evidence for Lateralization and Experience Effects.

Source: PLoS One. 2016; 11(4):e0152393

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Barber Anjuli
Huber Ludwig
Müller Corsin Andreas

Vetmed Research Units
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition

Project(s): The evolutionary and neuro-cognitive basis of the link between imitation, emphaty and prosocial behaviour in dogs and humans

From all non-human animals dogs are very likely the best decoders of human behavior. In addition to a high sensitivity to human attentive status and to ostensive cues, they are able to distinguish between individual human faces and even between human facial expressions. However, so far little is known about how they process human faces and to what extent this is influenced by experience. Here we present an eye-tracking study with dogs emanating from two different living environments and varying experience with humans: pet and lab dogs. The dogs were shown pictures of familiar and unfamiliar human faces expressing four different emotions. The results, extracted from several different eye-tracking measurements, revealed pronounced differences in the face processing of pet and lab dogs, thus indicating an influence of the amount of exposure to humans. In addition, there was some evidence for the influences of both, the familiarity and the emotional expression of the face, and strong evidence for a left gaze bias. These findings, together with recent evidence for the dog's ability to discriminate human facial expressions, indicate that dogs are sensitive to some emotions expressed in human faces.

Keywords Pubmed: Animals
Animals, Laboratorypsychology
Eye Movementsphysiology
Facial Expression
Functional Lateralityphysiology
Photic Stimulation
Recognition, Psychology
Social Perception
Visual Perceptionphysiology

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