Why do dogs wink at you

Why do dogs wink at you

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Why do dogs wink at you?

A new study may have found one answer: They’re thinking of you. The canine brain is uniquely designed to recognize, remember, and interpret human facial expressions, and that has a direct impact on how dogs interact with us, according to a team of University of Chicago and Columbia University researchers.

“The ability to read, understand, and react to what someone else is thinking is a very important, central, and unique cognitive skill for people,” said Dr. Jennifer Mascaro, a professor of psychology at UChicago and first author on the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“By extension,” she said, “we expect that similar cognitive processes are present in dogs.”

The paper provides the first evidence that dogs use something close to the same basic mental processes as we do to infer what we’re thinking and feeling. The research is rooted in studies using eye-tracking technology, which allows researchers to read the eyes of people and animals as they work on different tasks.

The current study took advantage of eye-tracking technology that the researchers brought into the lab during a previous study of dogs’ and their owners’ social relationships, the authors said.

“We brought our eye-tracking system, and we recorded dogs as they watched videos of their owners talking about various things, like puppies, food, the weather, or family,” said Dr. Robert Plutchik, a professor of psychology at Columbia University and the study’s senior author. “That eye-tracking information allowed us to show that dogs’ brain response to images of their owners’ faces is comparable to that of people’s brain response to the same images.”

Dr. Mascaro said the findings suggest that it may be possible to train dogs to recognize people’s emotions and intentions just like we do, and also to communicate with them, by using a type of technology that was once used to read the eyes of prisoners to determine the truth behind their claims of innocence or guilt.

Dogs, too, may possess similar “guilt-by-association” learning in which a dog develops a mental association between a person and a fearful emotion, for instance, the authors said.

The work was supported by the Simons Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health.

To read the article, visit

the Journal of Comparative Psychology


(Photo: Dog and owner)

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