Does Your Dog Really Understand Emotion, and Other News

Young boy smiles at his puppySome dog owners are often convinced their canine companions know how they are feeling and what they are thinking. Now, researchers have evidence to prove it. According to a study published in Biology Letters, dogs are able to recognize human emotions by combining multiple senses.

Dogs Can Recognize Emotions in Humans and Other Dogs

The ability to combine information from multiple senses has never been observed outside of humans, but a team of animal behavior experts and psychologists has determined dogs likely form abstract mental representations of humans’ emotional states rather than simply acting on previously learned behavior when responding to human expressions. Because at least two senses are involved, this is considered to be a high cognitive ability.

The team studied 17 domestic dogs, presenting them with paired images and sounds portraying different combinations of positive or negative emotions. Using photos of facial expressions and sound clips of vocalizations from both unfamiliar humans and dogs, the dogs faced two screens with projected photos of happy humans or dogs and angry humans or dogs. While the dogs looked at the screens, researchers played a single audio clip—a dog bark, someone speaking in Portuguese, or a neutral sound.

Researchers found the dogs focused on the photos that contained expressions matching the tone of the sounds they heard for a longer period of time than the unmatched photos. The dogs were especially good at this task when matching a dog bark to a photo of another dog, building on previous research that suggests dogs prefer looking at photos of other dogs rather than humans.

This study is the first of its kind to suggest dogs can interpret positive and negative emotions from both humans and other dogs.

Couples’ Quality of Life Linked Even When One Partner Dies

When a spouse dies, his or her characteristics are still intrinsically linked to the well-being of the surviving spouse, according to a new study published in Psychological Science. The research provided evidence for interdependence between partners, meaning someone’s quality of life earlier in the study was strongly associated with his or her partner’s quality of life later. Researchers say this interdependence link could even be as strong after the death of a spouse as it was when both partners were still living.

Children’s Lies Are a Sign of Cognitive Progress

Lying or fibbing generally falls under the list of behaviors children are not encouraged to partake in, but a recent study suggests lying is actually an important milestone in cognitive development. Lead researcher Kang Lee says lying requires two main ingredients: theory of mind and executive function. Theory of mind enables a child to understand what is in someone else’s mind, and executive function gives a child the power to plan ahead and stop unwanted actions.

To Better Cope With Stress, Listen to Your Body

When people experience stress, their bodies respond in a multitude of ways. Heart rates increase, breathing gets shallow, and adrenaline races through the blood stream. However, remaining in this physical state of arousal can undermine physical and mental performance. New research on resilience suggests a person’s resiliency is largely based on body awareness rather than rational thinking. The researchers theorize that by paying attention to the body’s response to stressful situations, people may be able to improve reactions to stress and anxiety.

Study Examines the Downside of Larger Families

Families in television series such as 19 Kids and Counting and The Brady Bunch may make large families appealing to many, but new research shows children in larger families are at risk for falling behind in cognitive achievement and having behavior problems. Researchers speculate children with multiple siblings may receive less attention from parents in early childhood, and early childhood experience can have lasting impact.

Is Autism Hiding in a Fold of the Brain?

Scientists have long related autism with abnormal development of the brain, and recent research has discovered a cerebral marker specific to autism in a fold in Broca’s area, a region of the brain associated with language and communication. The marker can be detected by an MRI and is generally present in a child’s brain as early as age 2. Researchers say this discovery may help with earlier diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

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  • Cally

    January 16th, 2016 at 5:14 AM

    I know for sure that my dog knows exactly how I am feeling. We just have that connection

  • Cyndi

    January 16th, 2016 at 11:13 AM

    I don’t necessarily agree with just letting your kids out and out tell lies, but I think if done in a way that is imaginative it can really fuel the creative process for them. They will tell stories, see where they can go with those, and then should be able to tell the difference between those and lying for a reason that was vindictive. There is a difference.

  • Logan

    January 18th, 2016 at 9:25 AM

    My parents have always been so dependent on each other that I do fear what will happen to them when one of them dies. I predict that it wouldn’t be long after one dies that the other will follow.

  • avery

    January 18th, 2016 at 3:11 PM

    I have 7 brothers and sisters.
    I would not change a thing about it

  • Constance

    January 20th, 2016 at 9:39 AM

    The last thing that I ever think about is regulation during a stress attack. All I can think about is being in the moment and the anxiety that this makes me feel.

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