Human Perception of Fear in Dogs Varies According to Experience with Dogs

Scientific Journal Articles

To investigate the role of experience in humans’ perception of emotion using canine visual signals, we asked adults with various levels of dog experience to interpret the emotions of dogs displayed in videos. The video stimuli had been pre-categorized by an expert panel of dog behavior professionals as showing examples of happy or fearful dog behavior. In a sample of 2,163 participants, the level of dog experience strongly predicted identification of fearful, but not of happy, emotional examples. The probability of selecting the “fearful” category to describe fearful examples increased with experience and ranged from.30 among those who had never lived with a dog to greater than.70 among dog professionals. In contrast, the probability of selecting the “happy” category to describe happy emotional examples varied little by experience, ranging from.90 to.93. In addition, the number of physical features of the dog that participants reported using for emotional interpretations increased with experience, and in particular, more-experienced respondents were more likely to attend to the ears. Lastly, more-experienced respondents provided lower difficulty and higher accuracy self-ratings than less-experienced respondents when interpreting both happy and fearful emotional examples. The human perception of emotion in other humans has previously been shown to be sensitive to individual differences in social experience, and the results of the current study extend the notion of experience-dependent processes from the intraspecific to the interspecific domain.

Wan, M., Bolger, N., and Champagne, F.A. (2012). Human perception of fear in dogs varies according to experience with dogs. PLoS One, 7(12), e51775, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051775


View Resource
Topic(s): Breeder Resource, Canine Body Language