According to a new study, dogs are able to read the emotional states of humans via our facial cues.
The study, conducted by a research team based at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, involved showing photographs of humans to dogs while the dogs ate. The photographs depicted either a man or a woman as they exhibited either fear, disgust, anger, surprise, happiness, sadness, or a neutral expression.
When presented with photographs depicting aroused emotional states, such as anger, happiness, or fear, the dogs took longer to resume eating and exhibited heightened heart rates, indicating a stress response. Additionally, when presented with these stressful stimuli, the dogs tended to turn their heads to the left, suggesting that dogs are more adept at processing human emotional states with one side of their brains.
“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.”
— Marcello Siniscalchi, Professor, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bari Aldo Moro