GHN — Dogs indeed are man’s best friends as they try to console humans who are in distress or pain. This is what a recent scientific study at the Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom, concluded.
The news of the study was posted on the university’s website where it says the study was lead by Dr Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer of the Psychology Department. The researchers studied the behavior of 18 domestic pet dogs of different breeds and ages. They studied the dogs’ responses to humans – owners and strangers – pretending crying and making other sounds, like talking and humming. Majority of the dogs responded empathically to the crying persons while not responding significantly to talking or humming sounds.
The interesting and most note-worthy part of the study was the finding that the dogs could not only differentiate between crying and other sounds but they responded to crying on priority basis, regardless of whether the crying person was their owner or a stranger. This showed that dogs were not responding empathically to crying for satisfying their own emotional need (in which case they would only go to the owner) but that of the person they perceived to be in distress. The research paper is available for reading online at http://eprints.gold.ac.uk/7074/.
A number of previous studies also arrived at similar conclusions about dogs’ response to human emotional states. Last year, researchers in Portugal suggested that dogs exhibit empathy toward humans for more than one reasons; one of the reasons they thought was accountable for canine empathy was genetic evolution during the domestication process while their origin from wolves, which are highly social animals, was also mentioned in the paper as another probable reason for the inherent capacity for responding empathically.