Dogs feel your pain


Published on

A news story about contagious yawning between species. Published in ScienceNOW, Science magazine's online portal for scientific discoveries:

Published in: Education, Lifestyle, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Dogs feel your pain

  1. 1. Dogs Feel Your Pain - ScienceNOW AAAS.ORG FEEDBACK HELP LIBRARIANS Daily News Enter Search Term ADVANCED ALERTS ACCESS RIGHTS MY ACCOUNT SIGN IN News Home ScienceNOW ScienceInsider Premium Content from Science About Science News Home > News > ScienceNOW > May 2012 > Dogs Feel Your Pain Dogs Feel Your Pain by Zuberoa Marcos on 7 May 2012, 4:32 PM | 20 Comments Email Share Share Print | Share hare S 37 S M More Share hare ore PREVIOUS ARTICLE NEXT ARTICLE Yawn next to your dog, and she may do the same. Though it seems ENL ARG E I M AG E simple, this contagious behavior is actually quite remarkable: Only a few animals do it, and only dogs cross the species barrier. Now a new study finds that dogs yawn even when they only hear the sound of us yawning, the strongest evidence yet that canines may be able to empathize with us. Besides people and dogs, contagious yawning has been observed in gelada baboons, stump-tail macaques, and chimpanzees. Humans tend to yawn more with friends and acquaintances, suggesting that "catching" someones yawn may be tied to feelings of empathy. Similarly, some studies have found that dogs tend to yawn more after watching familiar Open wide. Dogs yawn when they hear people yawning. But it is unclear whether the canine behavior is linked to us yawn. empathy as it is in people. One clue might be if even the mere sound of a Credit: Joyce Marrero/Shutterstock human yawn elicited yawning in dogs. To that end, scientists at the University of Porto in Portugal recruited 29 dogs, all of whom had lived for at least 6 months with their owners. To reduce anxiety, the study was performed in familiar rooms in the dogs homes and in the presence of a known person but with no visual contact with their owners. The team, led by behavioral biologist Karine Silva, recorded yawning sounds of the dogs owners and an unfamiliar woman as well as an artificial control sound consisting of a computer-reversed yawn. (To help induce natural yawning, volunteers listened to an audio loop of prerecorded yawns over headphones.) Each dog heard all of the sounds in two sessions, each carried out 7 days apart. During the sessions, the researchers measured the number of elicited yawns in dogs in response to sounds from known and unknown people. As the team will report in the July issue of Animal Cognition, 12 out of 29 dogs yawned during the experiment. On average, canines yawned five times more often when they heard humans they knew yawning as opposed to control sounds. "These results suggest that dogs have the capacity to empathize with humans," says Silva. Thats not surprising, she says. People first began domesticating dogs at least 15,000 years ago, and since then weve bred them to perform increasingly complex tasks, from hunting to guiding the blind. This close relationship may have fostered cross-species empathy over the millennia. ScienceNOW. ISSN 1947-8062 "This study tells us something new about the mechanisms underlying contagious yawning in dogs," says Evan McLean, a Ph.D. student at Duke Universitys Canine Cognition Center in Durham, North Carolina, who was not part of the study. "As in humans, dogs can catch this behavior using their ears alone." Still, he notes, the experiments dont tell us much about the nature of empathy in dogs. "Do they think about our emotions and internal states the way we do as humans?" Ádám Miklósi, an ethologist at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, agrees. "Using behaviors as indicators will only show some similarity in behavior," he says, "but it will never tell us whether canine empathy, whatever this is, matches human empathy." Previous work has shown, for example, that when dogs look guilty, they may not actually be feeling guilty. "Dogs can simulate very well different forms of social interest that could mislead people to think they are controlled by the same mental processes," says Miklósi, "but they may not always understand the complexity of human behavior." Follow ScienceNOW on Facebook and Twitter Posted in Zoology1 of 4 4/7/13 11:01 PM
  2. 2. Dogs Feel Your Pain - ScienceNOW Email Share Share Print | Share 731 More More Related Articles APRI L 4 , 2 0 1 3 APRI L 3 , 2 0 1 3 M ARCH 2 9 , 2 0 1 3 An Emergency Hatch for Baby Hated Invasive Species Helps ScienceShot: Monkey Smiles Lizards Restore an Ecosystem Are Contagious2 of 4 4/7/13 11:01 PM
  3. 3. Dogs Feel Your Pain - ScienceNOW 20 comments ★ 0 Leave a message... Best Community Share ⤤ # Peter Croft • 11 months ago My dog, a 13 yo female Golden Labrador, is not a dog which seeks attention. She likes to be stroked but usually is content to stay outside. She especially wont sleep in my bedroom with me. Apart from during thunderstorms, she wont enter. Being so old, she has tumours and is probably nearing the time when Ill have to take her on the last ride, and its breaking me up. A few months ago I was resting on my bed in the daytime and silently crying as I thought about what Ill have to do. Tears were streaming, I can tell you. I heard her moving around and then she came into my room and stood by my bed, looking for a cuddle. This is unheard of. She had never done this before. I can only guess that she sensed my pain. I love that dog dearly. 4 • Reply • Share › Maria Luisa Sponga • 11 months ago If you have ever had a dog in your home, you have no doubt that a dog feels empathy with you. 2 • Reply • Share › Rosebud • a month ago Ive read that yawning is contagious, not for "socialization" reasons...but as an innate survival instinct. Yawning is stimulated by a lower level of Oxygen, whether from low levels in our environment, or simply because we are tired and breathing in a more shallow manner. When one creature sees another creature yawn, a signal/ red flag is sent to our brains that alerts the brain to a possible "problem in the immediate area, ie) an inadequate supply of Oxygen. That, in turn, causes the creature to yawn, which, essentially, is an exaggerated breath, causing the body to pull in more Oxygen. 1 • Reply • Share › Kitty Girl • 11 months ago I have had two domesticated cats one male and one female. I was very close with the two as they were inside pets. They both would yawn when I yawned and I noticed this. I would fake a yawn being silent, and they would yawn. They didnt have to hear the yawn, they would only see it sometimes. I would test them often and they yawned with a sound or without it didnt matter. 1 • Reply • Share › Rogue Biologist • 11 months ago Dogs have been shown to pay attention to human cues to a much greater extent than wolves even mother-reared feral dogs, so I would not expect wolves to respond to human behaviors in the same way as dogs. This could either be a result of selective breeding of dogs over time, an initial trait that predisposed the dogs wild canid ancestor to be domesticated, or most likely a combination of the two. Dogs also use yawns for different things than humans do, and a dog will often yawn to indicated and diffuse tension (as Elnuar has already posted). It may be that that was the consideration of your internal state that lead the authors to label this as empathy. 1 • Reply • Share › edwin rutsch • 11 months ago May I suggest a further resource to learn more about empathy and compassion. The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews, videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion. I posted a link to your article in our Empathy and Compassion Magazine - Animals and Empathy Section The latest news about empathy and compassion from around the world 1 • Reply • Share › JV • 11 months ago OR, people and dogs simply pay more attention to voices/faces that are familiar to them, and are therefore more likely to "catch" the yawn because they are paying attention and not because they are "empathizing". More basic mechanisms are not as exciting, but probably usually true. What in the world kind of role could empathy play in yawning anyway? This is ridiculous. Also,3 of 4 4/7/13 11:01 PM
  4. 4. Dogs Feel Your Pain - ScienceNOW of 4 4/7/13 11:01 PM