Are Dogs Adept at Reading Your Mind?

By February 16 | See Comments

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Zealous pet owners will tell you that their dog is super smart and can do all kinds of tricks. Tricks like sit down, lie, play dead, roll over, and possess a theory of mind. What exactly is that? It is when a creature understands that other beings are capable of having different perceptions, and that they can be valuable. It is an advanced social concept, which a lot of human beings talking on their phones during a movie do not possess. But dogs may have it.

  1. They are capable of empathy – Yawning is connected to empathy, and has only been found so far in species that have been capable of empathizing, within a single species. Humans and chimps often yawn when they see other humans and chimps yawn. Dogs are the only known exception to this rule. Dogs can catch your yawn. Researchers speculate that human beings used yawns to indicate that they were exhausted back in the time when language was primitive. Natural selection favored dogs which could communicate with us as much as possible, yawning being one of the most common ways. Dogs are also very good at reading your emotions. Humans often express their emotion on the right side of their face, and tend to look at the right side whenever they are gauging their prospects for something. It is called left gaze bias, and rhesus monkeys and dogs are the only other animals capable of it.
  2. They assume that you know something that they do not – Pet owners would have noticed that dogs want to eat what we do. It is because they trust our judgment when it comes to daily food, among other things. Researchers who have studied this phenomenon say that even if dogs were offered the option of choosing between a large and a small plate of food, and saw humans eating and enjoying what’s on the small plate, they will choose the latter.
  3. They know when you like someone else more – Have you ever noticed your dog get all riled up when you stoop down to pet another critter? It is interesting that they have that reaction as it was thought or a long time that dogs were incapable of feeling jealous. Jealousy is a secondary emotion and requires the animal to possess self-consciousness. Researchers set out to prove the theory by having a pair of dogs seated next to each other and asking them to perform a trick. Once the trick was completed successfully, they rewarded one dog with treats but not the other. After some rounds, they found that the unrewarded dog had stopped performing the trick, and ended up showing signs of annoyance and stress. Dogs have the same jealousy-hormone (oxytocin) as we, humans do, and are capable of intense envy.
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