Dogs Can Recognize Smiling Faces

August 11, 2011

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. neutral (adj.) [noo-truhl] – plain; without any distinct or special quality, characteristic or type
Example: A neutral expression reveals no particular feeling.
2. canine (adj.) [key-nahyn] – relating to dogs, wolves or other similar animals
Example: My friend is a professional canine trainer who trains dogs in assisting blind people.

3. cognition (n.) [kog-nish-uhn] – a mental process of gaining knowledge
Example: Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder that affects the brain and human cognition.

4. affection (n.) [uh-fek-shuhn] –  a positive feeling of liking or caring for others
Example: He shows affection to his dogs by walking them to the park regularly.

5. adapt (v.) [uh-dapt] – to change something in order to suit different conditions and purposes
Example: It took me quite some time to adapt to Hong Kong’s busy life.

Read the text below.

A new study in Japan reveals that dogs can recognize people’s facial expressions.

Researchers from Azabu University, headed by Miho Nagasawa, showed nine pet dogs two different kinds of photos of their owners—one with the owner smiling and the other with a neutral  expression on the owner’s face. These dogs were then trained to touch with their noses the photos with the smiling faces of their owners. Five of the nine dogs were able to pass this stage.  

Later, these five dogs were then asked to choose between pairs of photos with smiling and neutral expressions on their owners and on some unfamiliar people, Surprisingly, the dogs chose the photos with smiling faces of either their owners or the strangers.

According to the research team, the dogs may have easily recognized differences in facial features by seeing obvious signs such as the exposure of teeth, which is generally connected to smiling.

Monique Udell, who studies canine cognition at the University of Florida, said that dogs are not born with the ability to recognize human facial expressions. Rather, they develop this skill as they spend time with humans and feel people’s affection.

Based on the results, Nagasawa’s team concluded that the dogs that were trained have acquired social abilities which helped them adapt and live well with humans.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What do you think are the advantages of studies like the one discussed in the article?
·         What are the important things people should remember when keeping pets?

Discussion B

·         What can you say about the research presented in the article?
·         What do you think makes a research reliable?

August 11, 2011