Study on dog empathy by Julia Meyers-Manor cited on nationalgeographic.com

Research from a 2020 paper on dog empathy, “A shoulder to cry on: Heart rate variability and empathetic behavioral responses to crying and laughing in dogs,” written by Associate Professor of Psychology Julia Meyers-Manor, was cited in an article published Oct. 1 on nationalgeographic.com.

The article, “Yes, dogs can ‘catch’ their owners’ emotions,” discusses research from several recent studies that “show how canines pick up chemical and physiological cues from people that allow our moods to become ‘contagious.'”

The article refers to dogs’ “affective empathy” and Meyers-Manor’s report of “how dogs reacted when their owner or a stranger in their home pretended to laugh or cry. The dog bestowed more attention on the person who appeared to be crying, both through visual or physical contact. And, when the stranger cried, the dogs showed higher stress responses. …

“‘All of empathy has some component of contagious emotions,’ explains Meyers-Manor. ‘In some ways, recognizing another (creature’s) emotion is more complex cognitively speaking, whereas feeling what another animal feels is simpler.’

“When someone ends up sharing another person’s feelings, it’s often because during conversation humans naturally tend to mimic their companion’s facial expressions, posture, and body language, without being consciously aware of it. … After all, when dogs and humans are angry, Meyers-Manor points out, their facial muscles are often tightened, their teeth may be clenched, and their body tenses up. This means that when you’re in the presence of an angry dog or when you’re enraged, each of you may unconsciously mirror the other’s facial expressions or body language and end up feeling the same way. ‘Because of our close connection with dogs, we have co-evolved to detect each other’s (emotional) signals in ways that are different from other species,’ Meyers-Manor says.”


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Julia Meyers-Manor with her dog, Athos

 


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