DOGS have a special ability that really marks them out as man’s best friend, scientists have discovered.
They appear to read emotion in human faces in just the same way people do.
It may be evidence that, like an understanding best friend, they can see at a glance if we are happy, sad, pleased or angry.
When humans look at a new face their eyes tend to wander left, falling on the right hand side of the person’s face first. This “left gaze bias” only occurs when we encounter faces and does not apply any other time, such as when inspecting animals or inanimate objects.
A possible reason for the tendency is that the right side of the human face is better at expressing emotional state.
Researchers at the University of Lincoln have now shown that pet dogs also exhibit “left gaze bias”, but only when looking at human faces. No other animal has been known to display this behaviour before.
A team led by Dr Kun Guo showed 17 dogs images of human, dog and monkey faces. Film of the dogs’ eye and head movement revealed a strong left gaze bias when the animals were presented with human faces.
This did not occur when they were shown other images.
New Scientist magazine reported: “Guo suggests that over thousands of generations of association with humans, dogs may have evolved the left gaze bias as a way to gauge our emotions.
“Recent studies show that the right side of our faces can express emotions more accurately and more intensely than the left.”
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