Functionally relevant responses to human facial expressions of emotion in the domestic horse (Equus caballus)

Smith, Amy Victoria, Proops, Leanne, Grounds, Kate, Wathan, Jennifer and McComb, Karen (2016) Functionally relevant responses to human facial expressions of emotion in the domestic horse (Equus caballus). Biology Letters, 12 (2). p. 20150907. ISSN 1744-9561

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Whether non-human animals can recognize human signals, including emotions, has both scientific and applied importance, and is particularly relevant for domesticated species. This study presents the first evidence of horses’ abilities to spontaneously discriminate between positive (happy) and negative (angry) human facial expressions in photographs. Our results showed that the angry faces induced responses indicative of a functional understanding of the stimuli: horses displayed a left-gaze bias (a lateralization generally associated with stimuli perceived as negative) and a quicker increase in heart rate (HR) towards these photographs. Such lateralized responses towards human emotion have previously only been documented in dogs, and effects of facial expressions on HR have not been shown in any heterospecific studies. Alongside the insights that these findings provide into interspecific communication, they raise interesting questions about the generality and adaptiveness of emotional expression and perception across species.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: emotion recognition, facial expression, interspecific communication, lateralization, heart rate, stress-related behaviours
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QL Zoology > QL0750 Animal behaviour
Depositing User: Amy Smith
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2016 12:39
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 14:12

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