London | Dogs too show signs of basic empathy by copying each other’s expressions in split-second just like humans, according to a new study. Humans mimick each other’s facial expressions, which helps people get along. Dogs do the same to bond with other dogs, researchers said. According to researchers from the University of Pisa’s Natural History Museum in Italy, the ability may have emerged in dogs during the process of domestication. Such behaviours have only been described in humans and non-human primates such as chimps and orangutans.
It is why humans automatically mirror a smile or a laugh, enabling the sharing of emotions, ‘BBC News’ reported. We demonstrated that rapid mimicry is present in dogs and it is an involuntary, automatic and split-second mirroring of other dogs, said lead researcher Elisabetta Palagi.
Dogs show a basic form of empathy where they are able to instantly pick up on the emotions of other dogs through their facial expressions and body movements, she said. A dog while playing with another dog can read their motivation and the emotional state of the other dog by mimicking the same expression and body movement of the other dog, Palagi said.
The researchers videotaped dogs playing in a park in Italy. They analysed the way the dogs were interacting, including signals used to show when a dog was being playful, such as crouching or bowing down on its front legs, or relaxing its mouth to show some of its teeth. After analysing 50 hours of video, they found that dogs were able to mimic the facial expressions and movements of other dogs in a split-second.
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