Dog owners all have something in common, they wish they knew what their dog was thinking and able to understand. It would be great to look at their expressions and be able to know what was going through their furry little heads, kind of like we can read people’s faces and understand somewhat of what they are thinking. Well, you’re not the only one who wants to know what dogs are thinking. Researchers from National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City wanted to know, too, so they began to conduct studies to try to get the answer, and they have actually gained quite a bit of insight to the question. With the tests they have conducted so far, they have a little better knowledge as to why dogs tend to understand people and read their emotions as well as they do. The researchers have said that brain scans and A.I. confirm dogs are great at recognizing our emotions. Keep reading to see how they discovered this.
The team of researchers used brain scans to see if it was possible to determine what a dog was looking at by analyzing a scan of its brain. The study was done using what is known as, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology. The subjects that were used were four well-trained Border Collies who had been trained to sit on a scanner and not move so that their brains could be scanned. While they were on the scanner table, the collies were shown a variety of facial expressions; fearful, angry, sad, and happy faces. All of the faces they were shown were made by people they didn’t know; they were unfamiliar faces, and while the dogs were looking at the different faces, their brain patterns were being recorded.
The scientists used machine-learning algorithms to analyze the different patterns and figure out which of the faces (expressions) the dog had seen. After all the analyzing had been done, it was the happy face that triggered the most distinctive brain pattern. It was the face that caused a specific activity to take place in the temporal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain that is used to process more complex visual information. This means that when the dog is looking at something, this part of the brain is activated and gets busy trying to process what it’s looking at, and will cause the dog to react and show his own emotions.
This particular study that recently took place, just happens to have a very similar outcome from a study that was conducted in Japan that was considered to be a “more human-centric experiment,” where researchers studied the brains of humans in the same manner and were actually able to get an A.I. to put a caption to the images of what the person had seen, and it was based completely on the fMRI brain scan image that was taken. The captions were so accurate, in fact, that full sentences were amazingly captioned for the visuals, like “A dog is sitting on the floor in front of an open door” or “a group of people standing on the beach.”
The most recent study only presented just a few different emotional faces and states of the people for the dogs to read, but with just those alone, it gave these researches sufficient evidence that dogs possess a very high level of human emotional recognition abilities, which, what this means to you, when you talk to your dog and show emotions with your expressions, your dog is picking up on it and reading it. If you are happy and show a happy, smiley face, happy to see your dog – he knows you are happy. If you are upset with your dog, on the other hand, maybe scolding him for tearing up a pillow, then he sees this too, and he understands that he is in trouble.
Knowing all of this about dogs, what would make it even cooler, is if these scientists and researchers could figure out a way to convert this to some sort of portable technology that we could carry around with us so we could read their minds when they are out and about in the world on a day-to-day basis.