There are few joys in life greater than seeing your dog jump around with happiness when you greet them after a long day. Does your dog recognize your face? We may think our dog is gazing lovingly at our face, but a new study suggests that’s not the case.
A new study has found dogs aren’t biologically attuned to faces in the same way that humans are, but scientists say they work hard to read our expressions anyway. Researchers in Hungary found that dogs simply are not wired to respond to faces. When dogs were shown pictures or videos of faces, their brains simply don’t light up the way a human brain does.
The researchers put 30 humans and 20 dogs into MRI machines and showed them a series of images and videos depicting human faces, backs of human heads, dog faces, and the back of dogs’ heads. The dogs in the study were all longtime family pets who were trained to sit still in the MRI machines.
The team found that humans’ brains were more active when they were shown a face, as opposed to the back of the head, whether it belonged to a dog or human. Dogs, on the other hand, showed no difference in brain activity. However, the dogs’ brains lit up more when they see other dogs than people.
While our pet’s brains may not be wired to prefer our faces, previous research has demonstrated that dogs do recognize and even love their owners. Moral of this story? Man’s best friend does not care what you look like, they love you all the same.
Bunford N, Hernández-Pérez R, Farkas EB, Cuaya LV, Szabó D, Szabó ÁG, Gácsi M, Miklósi Á, Andics A. Comparative Brain Imaging Reveals Analogous and Divergent Patterns of Species and Face Sensitivity in Humans and Dogs. Journal of Neuroscience. 2020 Oct 21;40(43):8396-408.