Dog owners, we think you’re going to enjoy this new research.
Women are stereotypically considered to be more empathetic than men – something which often helps with forming meaningful friendships.
But there’s one friend (of the furry variety) that especially benefits from your ability to empathise, and that’s your dog.
Research suggests that because women can be more sensitive to others, they are more likely to understand their dog’s attempts at communication and can better determine what different kinds of growls represent.
Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest set out to investigate if humans can understand the nuances in dog’s growls, from requests for food to the difference between playful and aggressive barks.
They recorded how 18 dogs responded to different situations, from pleasurable circumstances such as playing to more threatening ones, like guarding food or being approached by a stranger.
40 participants were then asked to listen to these recordings and interpret the emotion behind them and the context in which they were delivered.
In the first round of recordings, those listening were asked to use a sliding scale to rate how much fear, aggression, despair, happiness and playfulness they could detect in the vocal communications from each dog.
They were also asked to determine the context of the growl, to work out if they could imagine what situation the dog was in while barking or growling in this way.
The results showed a powerful connection between humans and dogs, with most participants correctly interpreting the emotion behind growls as well as the context, with an overall success rate of 63%.
The findings also showed that female participants understanding of the dogs was much better, with more women correctly perceiving what the dogs were trying to convey.
Tamás Faragó, the lead author of the study told Broadly, “Our recent fMRI studies suggest that dogs and humans use similar brain areas and probably similar processes to assess others’ emotions from vocalizations.
“This is a common pattern in emotion recognition studies.”
Faragó continued, “women are likely more empathic and sensitive to others’ emotions and this helps them to better associate the contexts with the emotional content of the growls.”
This isn’t the first-time women have been likened to mindreaders because of their empathy skills.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge released the results of a 20-year study into ‘cognitive empathy’, which examined why some people are better at interpreting what’s going on in another person’s head, and found that women are much better at it than men because they are genetically more empathetic.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll be thrilled with the news that we’ve got canines on our side thanks to our elevated emotional intelligence.
Looks to us like the phrase “man’s best friend” could do with an update.
Images: Isi Akahome / Joao Victor Xavier