Caeiro, C., Guo, K., & Mills, D. (2017). Dogs and humans respond to emotionally competent stimuli by producing different facial actions. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 15525.

The commonality of facial expressions of emotion has been studied in different species since Darwin, with most of the research focusing on closely related primate species. However, it is unclear to what extent there exists common facial expression in species more phylogenetically distant, but sharing a need for common interspecific emotional understanding. Here we used the objective, anatomically-based tools, FACS and DogFACS (Facial Action Coding Systems), to quantify and compare human and domestic dog facial expressions in response to emotionally-competent stimuli associated with different categories of emotional arousal. We sought to answer two questions: Firstly, do dogs display specific discriminatory facial movements in response to different categories of emotional stimuli? Secondly, do dogs display similar facial movements to humans when reacting in emotionally comparable contexts? We found that dogs displayed distinctive facial actions depending on the category of stimuli. However, dogs produced different facial movements to humans in comparable states of emotional arousal. These results refute the commonality of emotional expression across mammals, since dogs do not display human-like facial expressions. Given the unique interspecific relationship between dogs and humans, two highly social but evolutionarily distant species sharing a common environment, these findings give new insight into the origin of emotion expression.

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