Do dogs recognize faces? New dog research says “Yes!”
We all know dogs mainly rely on their noses but have you ever wondered if your dog can recognize faces as well?
Like humans, dogs are social animals who live in groups so it is important to be able to tell one individual from another through facial recognition. The ability to recognize facial features was presumed to be a skill only humans and possibly primates possessed. But as it turns out, this skill is something we share with dogs.
Do Dogs Recognize Faces?
At the University of Helsinki in Finland, researchers tested the facial recognition abilities of domestic dogs.
The researchers used photos of faces on a computer screen for testing purpose. Responses to personal familiarity were tested using eye movement tracking.
A total of 23 pet dogs and 8 kennel dogs were tested in the study published in the Animal Cognition journal. The researchers aimed to answer the following questions:
- If dogs are not trained to recognize faces, are they able to see faces in the pictures?
- Do dogs naturally look at familiar and strange faces differently?
The researchers found that dogs are more interested in the faces of other dogs than human faces.
On the other hand, dogs who live with families react more to human faces than dogs living in kennels. They are also more observant of familiar human faces rather than unfamiliar ones.
It was also observed that dogs showed great interest in the eye area. According to the researchers, this suggests that dogs perceive images representing faces.
Do Dogs Recognize Faces Even When They’re Upside-Down
Facial inversion effect is a special term that means faces are harder to recognize when they’re upside down.
In the study, researchers observed how dogs respond to faces that are shown to them upside down, because some species do not process inverted faces in the same way they process faces that are right-side up.
As humans, we have the ability to identify normally oriented (right-side up) faces quickly and accurately. The reason is that we are instinctively able to identify faces in a different way than we identify other types of objects. We are able to recognize right-side up faces as complete structures rather than as a collection of parts. But when faces are upside down, we perceive them as we do other objects – as individual parts rather than as a complete structure.
According to the study, dogs also find it harder to identify faces that are inverted. However, since dogs spend a lot of time looking into eyes in both normally oriented and upside-down faces, it is suggested that they do recognize the objects as faces regardless of orientation.
Do Dogs Recognize Faces: Yes Please!
The study’s overall results indicate that dogs are indeed capable of facial recognition.
“Dogs are able to see faces in the images and they differentiate familiar and strange faces from each other,” say the researchers. “These results indicate that dogs might have facial recognition skills, similar to humans.”
This finding makes absolute sense since it has been proven that face-and-eye contact plays a significant role in human-dog communication.
Dogs look us right in the eye while we tell them we love them, right?
Source: The Huffington Post