Monday, November 16, 2009
Dogs Can Catch Yawns Too
Scientists have discovered that, just like humans, pet dogs find yawns 'catching' too.
Until now, only humans and our close primate relatives were thought to find yawning contagious.
A team from Birkbeck College at the University of London wanted to know whether canines - known to be highly skilled at reading human social cues - could read the human yawn signal, reports the BBC.
The team tested 29 dogs by creating two conditions, each five minutes long, in which a person - a stranger to the dog - was sat in front of the animal and asked to call its name.
Under the first condition, the stranger yawned once the dogs had made eye contact with them.
"We gave the dogs everything: visual and auditory stimulus to induce them to yawn," explained Birkbeck's Dr Atsushi Senju.
The same procedure was followed in the second test, but this time the stranger opened and closed their mouth but did not yawn.
This was a precaution to ensure that dogs weren't just responding to an open mouth.
The team found that 21 out of 29 dogs yawned when the stranger in front of them had first. By contrast, no dogs yawned during the test where the person did not yawn.
The researchers believe that these results are the first evidence that dogs have the capacity to empathise with humans. -- Courtesy of Ananova.com