Nav: Home

How do horses read human emotional cues?

June 21, 2018

Scientists demonstrated for the first time that horses integrate human facial expressions and voice tones to perceive human emotion, regardless of whether the person is familiar or not.

Recent studies showed the herd-forming animal possesses high communication capabilities, and can read the emotions of their peers through facial expressions and contact calls, or whinnies. Horses have long been used as a working animal and also as a companion animal in sports and leisure, establishing close relationships with humans just like dogs do with people.

Dogs are known to relate human facial expressions and voices to perceive human emotions, but little has been known as to whether horses can do the same.

In the present study to be published in Scientific Reports, Associate Professor Ayaka Takimoto of Hokkaido University, graduate student Kosuke Nakamura of The University of Tokyo, and former Professor Toshikazu Hasegawa of The University of Tokyo, used the expectancy violation method to investigate whether horses cross-modally perceive human emotion by integrating facial expression and voice tone. They also tested whether the familiarity between the horse and the person affected the horse's perception.

The expectancy violation method has been used to study infant cognitive development. Horses were shown a picture of a happy facial expression or an angry facial expression on a screen, and they then heard a pre-recorded human voice -- praising or scolding -- from a speaker behind the screen. Horses received both the congruent condition, in which the emotional values of facial expression and voice tone were matched, and the incongruent condition, in which they were not.

Results of the experiment showed that horses responded to voices 1.6 to 2.0 times faster in the incongruent condition than in the congruent condition regardless of familiarity of the person. In addition, the horses looked to the speaker 1.4 times longer in the incongruent condition than in the congruent condition when the person was familiar. These results suggest that horses integrate human facial expressions and voice tones to perceive human emotions, therefore an expectancy violation occurred when horses heard a human voice whose emotional value was not congruent with the human facial expression.

"Our study could contribute to the understanding of how humans and companion animals send and receive emotional signals to deepen our relationships, which could help establish a better relationship that emphasizes the well-being of animals," says Ayaka Takimoto of Hokkaido University.
-end-


Hokkaido University

Related Emotions Articles:

Is it ok for parents to be supportive to children's negative emotions?
New research suggests that whereas mothers who are more supportive of their children's negative emotions rate their children as being more socially skilled, these same children appear less socially adjusted when rated by teachers.
Emotions expressed by the dying are unexpectedly positive
Fear of death is a fundamental part of the human experience -- we dread the possibility of pain and suffering and we worry that we'll face the end alone.
Streamlined analysis could help people better manage their emotions
The strategies people use to manage their emotions fall into three core groupings, according to newly published research from the University at Buffalo.
We read emotions based on how the eye sees
We use others' eyes -- whether they're widened or narrowed -- to infer emotional states, and the inferences we make align with the optical function of those expressions, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Emotions are cognitive, not innate, researchers conclude
Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, New York University Professor Joseph LeDoux and Richard Brown, a professor at the City University of New York, conclude.
Well-being linked with when and how people manage emotions
Reframing how we think about a situation is a common strategy for managing our emotions, but a new study suggests that using this reappraisal strategy in situations we actually have control over may be associated with lower well-being.
Oxytocin in the recognition of emotions
Studies have demonstrated that oxytocin plays a role in facilitating the perception of emotions in other people's facial expressions.
How our emotions affect store prices
Why stores should take shoppers' emotions into account when setting prices.
Chronic fatigue patients more likely to suppress emotions
Chronic fatigue syndrome patients report they are more anxious and distressed than people who don't have the condition, and they are also more likely to suppress those emotions.
Emotions in the age of Botox
Botulin injections in the facial muscles, which relax expression lines and make one's skin appear younger as a result of a mild paralysis, have another, not easily predictable effect: they undermine the ability to understand the facial expressions of other people.

Related Emotions Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".