New research from the Universities of Lincoln and Sao Paulo has shown that dogs can recognise how other dogs and humans are feeling, by combining information from different senses to discern emotion.
The study showed that dogs aren’t simply displaying learned behaviours, but can form abstract mental representations of different emotional states.
During the experiment seventeen dogs were shown photographs of either human or dog faces depicting different emotional expressions (happy/playful and angry/aggressive) along with a single vocalised sound from the same human or dog, which had either a positive or negative tone. Dogs spent significantly longer looking at the face whose expression was congruent with the vocalization.
Dogs are the only animals, apart from humans, who have been shown to have the ability to recognise this congruence within and outside of species.
Photo source: University of Lincoln