Humans Process Dog and Human Facial Affect in Similar WaysReport as inadecuate

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Humans share aspects of their facial affect with other species such as dogs. Here we asked whether untrained human observers with and without dog experience are sensitive to these aspects and recognize dog affect with better-than-chance accuracy. Additionally, we explored similarities in the way observers process dog and human expressions. The stimulus material comprised naturalistic facial expressions of pet dogs and human infants obtained through positive i.e., play and negative i.e., social isolation provocation. Affect recognition was assessed explicitly in a rating task using full face images and images cropped to reveal the eye region only. Additionally, affect recognition was assessed implicitly in a lexical decision task using full faces as primes and emotional words and pseudowords as targets. We found that untrained human observers rated full face dog expressions from the positive and negative condition more accurately than would be expected by chance. Although dog experience was unnecessary for this effect, it significantly facilitated performance. Additionally, we observed a range of similarities between human and dog face processing. First, the facial expressions of both species facilitated lexical decisions to affectively congruous target words suggesting that their processing was equally automatic. Second, both dog and human negative expressions were recognized from both full and cropped faces. Third, female observers were more sensitive to affective information than were male observers and this difference was comparable for dog and human expressions. Together, these results extend existing work on cross-species similarities in facial emotions and provide evidence that these similarities are naturally exploited when humans interact with dogs.

Author: Annett Schirmer , Cui Shan Seow, Trevor B. Penney



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