Project Title

Classifying Dogs’ Facial Expressions: Implications for Human Cognitive Social Evolution and Cross-Species Communication

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - Psychological Science

Faculty Sponsor Name

Suma Mallavarapu

Disciplines

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Facial expressions have been considered outward expressions of internal behavioral states. Additionally, there is evidence that both dogs and humans subscribe to the social learning theory to acquire contextual information from past experiences in connecting facial expressions to behaviors. Previous research has shown that people are able to read dog facial expressions; however, the research is inconsistent on whether this behavior is innate or learned, as well as if this ability extends to dogs of different facial morphologies. The goal of this study was to understand the extent of humans’ ability to read dog facial expressions. First, photographs of dog facial expressions were obtained in positive, negative, and neutral conditions. Second, we recruited 138 college students at KSU and asked participants to identify positive and negative emotions in the dog facial expressions. We collected demographic data, as well as data on experience level with dogs, level of attachment to dogs, level of empathy towards dogs, and knowledge of dog facial expressions to see whether there was a relationship between these variables and accuracy of responses. Understanding how humans read dog facial expressions can provide insight into the evolution of human social communication, not just within our own species, but in other species as well. Additionally, this research can inform owners and dog professionals on dog behavior and emotion and improve the human-animal bond as well as animal welfare.

Keywords: dog, human-animal bond, facial expressions, emotions, cross-species communication

Project Type

Event

How will this be presented?

No

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Classifying Dogs’ Facial Expressions: Implications for Human Cognitive Social Evolution and Cross-Species Communication

Facial expressions have been considered outward expressions of internal behavioral states. Additionally, there is evidence that both dogs and humans subscribe to the social learning theory to acquire contextual information from past experiences in connecting facial expressions to behaviors. Previous research has shown that people are able to read dog facial expressions; however, the research is inconsistent on whether this behavior is innate or learned, as well as if this ability extends to dogs of different facial morphologies. The goal of this study was to understand the extent of humans’ ability to read dog facial expressions. First, photographs of dog facial expressions were obtained in positive, negative, and neutral conditions. Second, we recruited 138 college students at KSU and asked participants to identify positive and negative emotions in the dog facial expressions. We collected demographic data, as well as data on experience level with dogs, level of attachment to dogs, level of empathy towards dogs, and knowledge of dog facial expressions to see whether there was a relationship between these variables and accuracy of responses. Understanding how humans read dog facial expressions can provide insight into the evolution of human social communication, not just within our own species, but in other species as well. Additionally, this research can inform owners and dog professionals on dog behavior and emotion and improve the human-animal bond as well as animal welfare.

Keywords: dog, human-animal bond, facial expressions, emotions, cross-species communication

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