Presentation Title

The Effects of Human Emotions on Dogs' Social Cognitive Performance and Hormone Levels

Advisor Information

Rosemary Strasser

Location

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Presentation Type

Poster

Start Date

6-3-2015 11:00 AM

End Date

6-3-2015 12:30 PM

Abstract

Research suggests that dogs experience emotional contagion (i.e., synchronization of their emotional state) with humans (Custance & Mayer, 2012), an ability which seems to aid in dogs’ social cognitive skills directed towards humans. However, it is still unclear whether dogs can use human facial cues associated with emotional states as a cue that might subsequently influence their behavior and physiology. The current study examines whether shelter dogs respond to manipulated human facial cues associated with certain emotions to alter their behavior on a commonly used social-cognitive task (object choice task) and whether these facial emotional cues will influence the dog’s hormonal state. Findings from a pilot study showed that behaviorally dogs’ responses vary when given different facial expression cues (e.g., happy, sad, neutral, or disgust), F(3, 208) = 8.22, p < .001, such that dogs performed worse when given a facial expression associated with sad or disgust. We are also currently collecting saliva samples to measure cortisol following trials that consist of one of the aforementioned facial cues. Additional findings will be presented and it is expected that there will be an increase in cortisol post- testing, especially in the disgust condition compared to the happy or neutral condition. If we find a significant increase in cortisol, it will suggest that dogs not only understand human emotions but that it influences their hormonal states.

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Mar 6th, 11:00 AM Mar 6th, 12:30 PM

The Effects of Human Emotions on Dogs' Social Cognitive Performance and Hormone Levels

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Research suggests that dogs experience emotional contagion (i.e., synchronization of their emotional state) with humans (Custance & Mayer, 2012), an ability which seems to aid in dogs’ social cognitive skills directed towards humans. However, it is still unclear whether dogs can use human facial cues associated with emotional states as a cue that might subsequently influence their behavior and physiology. The current study examines whether shelter dogs respond to manipulated human facial cues associated with certain emotions to alter their behavior on a commonly used social-cognitive task (object choice task) and whether these facial emotional cues will influence the dog’s hormonal state. Findings from a pilot study showed that behaviorally dogs’ responses vary when given different facial expression cues (e.g., happy, sad, neutral, or disgust), F(3, 208) = 8.22, p < .001, such that dogs performed worse when given a facial expression associated with sad or disgust. We are also currently collecting saliva samples to measure cortisol following trials that consist of one of the aforementioned facial cues. Additional findings will be presented and it is expected that there will be an increase in cortisol post- testing, especially in the disgust condition compared to the happy or neutral condition. If we find a significant increase in cortisol, it will suggest that dogs not only understand human emotions but that it influences their hormonal states.