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The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: Classifying dogs’ facial expressions from photographs.

angry-dog

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If IHasAHotdog is any indication, dogs display a variety of facial expressions. However, surveys of LOLanimals aren't necessarily scientific (though they can be), so these researchers took a more controlled approach by testing whether people can recognize different facial expressions on the same dog's face. How did they get the dog to make different expressions? Read on for a few of their LOL-worthy methods...

Classifying dogs’ (Canis familiaris) facial expressions from photographs

"Humans accurately read other humans’ emotional facial expressions. Little research was found examining human ability to read dogs’ expressions. Cross-species research extended facial expression research to chimpanzees, and there is much research on dogs’ auditory signaling to humans. To explore humans’ ability to identify dogs’ facial displays, photographs of a dog's face were taken under behaviorally defined conditions expected to elicit specific emotions. Dog experts consistently rated these photographs. The photographs rated as best by experts were used as stimuli for people experienced and inexperienced with dogs. Both groups were able to read the dog's emotions. Paradoxically, experienced people were less accurate reading aggressiveness. Experienced people were better identifying behaviorally defined situations. Research using behaviorally anchored, standardized photographs is recommended."

Bonus excerpt and figure from the full text:

"Surprise: Mal's handler told Mal to sit and stay. While Mal was sitting, his owner held a jack-in-the-box that Mal has never seen before. As Mal watched his owner, the jack-in-the-box popped out unexpectedly. Several jack-in-the-boxes were used to maintain the element of surprise for Mal.

Disgust: Mal's handler told Mal to sit and stay. Mal was sitting and expecting a food reward from his owner. However, instead, his owner offered him a medication he is known to find distasteful.

Fear: Mal's handler told Mal to sit and stay. A pair of dog toenail trimmers, which Mal feared, were held by his handler who told Mal, “We are going to do your nails,” while making eye contact with Mal."

Fig. 1. The 21 photographs chosen by the experts as best representations of the specified conditions. All photographs were taken by Keith Reynolds of Barnwood Gallery, Utica Pennsylvania. Copyright owned by Tina Bloom.

Photo: flickr/Julija...!

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