Dogs can tell the difference between happy and angry human faces, according to a new study published in Current Biology on February 12, 2015. The article was titled, “Dogs Can Discriminate Emotional Expressions of Human Faces." The discovery represents the first solid evidence that an animal other than humans can discriminate between emotional expressions in another species, the researchers say. "We think the dogs in our study could have solved the task only by applying their knowledge of emotional expressions in humans to the unfamiliar pictures we presented to them," says Dr. Corsin Müller of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. Previous attempts had been made to test whether dogs could discriminate between human emotional expressions, but none of them had been completely convincing. In the new study, the researchers trained dogs to discriminate between images of the same person making either a happy or an angry face. In every case, the dogs were shown only the upper or the lower half of the face. After training on 15 picture pairs, the dogs' discriminatory abilities were tested in four types of trials, including (1) the same half of the faces as in the training but of novel faces, (2) the other half of the faces used in training, (3) the other half of novel faces, and (4) the left half of the faces used in training. The dogs were able to select the angry or happy face more often than would be expected by random chance in every case, the study found.
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