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Dogs feel empathy for humans, study suggests

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A recent study by UK researchers from Goldsmiths College in London suggests that dogs may be capable of empathy. They set out to collect 18 untrained pet dogs and place a stranger and the dogs owner in different places. The owner and stranger would alternately express themselves vocally in various ways. 15 of the 18 dogs sought out the person making distressed sounds, even if it was the stranger(Garrett).

In another study, a researcher from Emory Center for Neurpolicy conducted an fMRI scan on the brains of dogs. They found that the dog's brains lit up when they were shown a hand signal indicating that they were about to receive food, and, more interestingly, this response was much more responsive when the signal came from humans, as opposed to mere objects(Garrett). Researchers believe that this means that crying carriers greater emotional significance for dogs than other more emotion-neutral sounds. Researchers suggest that this demonstrates that dogs are capable of exhibiting consolatory behavior, and thus, a degree of empathy in trying to comfort the sad person.

In another study, it was found that dogs yawn in response to their owners more than they do in response to strangers, suggesting a degree of emotional connection with their owners, since another study shows that humans tend to yawn more in response to yawning from those whom they care about, rather than strangers. The researchers were able to rule out the possibility that the dogs were resopnding to stress when they found that the heartbeat of the dogs was the same regardless of whether they were observing humans or strangers.

Garrett, Lesie. New Scientific Studies Ask: Can Dogs Feel Empathy? Retrieved from : http://www.cesarsway.com/dogbehavior/basics/Can-Dogs-Feel-Empathy#ixzz36...

Dell-Amore, Christine (2013). Can Dogs Feel Our Emotions? Yawn Study Suggests Yes. Retrieved from: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130808-yawning-dogs-cont...

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