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Sit, stay, yawn
August 9, 2013 6:21 AM   Subscribe

We already know that yawning is highly contagious and, in humans and other primates, may be rooted in empathy. Human-dog yawning contagion is well known too, as previously shown in Metafilter, but its causes are contradictory, as yawning in dogs is also associated with psychological tension or mild stress. A new study confirms that dogs yawn more frequently when watching their owner than when watching a stranger, demonstrating that the contagiousness of yawning in dogs correlates with the level of emotional proximity, possibly indicating rudimentary forms of empathy in dogs.
posted by elgilito (20 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Aw, who's da sweepy puppy, eh?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:36 AM on August 9, 2013


Previously
posted by nathancaswell at 6:39 AM on August 9, 2013


Maybe dogs just find their owners boring and yearn for new companionship.
posted by ardgedee at 6:46 AM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, the science of dogs is always adorable. And the science of cats is always terrible (Toxoplasmosis)
posted by Napierzaza at 6:50 AM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


If dog empathy is just rudimentary then people are in big trouble.
posted by elizardbits at 6:58 AM on August 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


If dog empathy is just rudimentary then people are in big trouble masters of the art of self-serving anthropomorphic projection
posted by yoink at 7:08 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


A puppy was mean to you once, right?
posted by elizardbits at 7:13 AM on August 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah I'm not sure how rudimentary empathy is distinguished from... fully advanced empathy I guess?

Cats still don't give a shit.
posted by kavasa at 7:27 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If dog empathy is just rudimentary then people are in big trouble.

Seriously. Anyone who has been around dogs for any amount of time knows that they are emotional sponges and key off of anything around them. They may not have emotions, or the ability to process them, the same way we do, but they can certainly sense what's going on.

The more social an animal is, the more it must take cues from the animals around it. Even cats are somewhat social and occasionally deign to share emotion with their human pets.
posted by gjc at 7:30 AM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The rudimentary forms of empathy bit comes from the article actually (it should have been between quotes indeed). Scientists working on animal behaviour tend to be very cautious when using terms related to human emotions, unlike pet owners of course. I'm not sure what terms they use in private when they talk about their own pets though.
posted by elgilito at 7:36 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Animals are far smarter than we credit, to our discredit.
posted by stbalbach at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I like to think that dogs are just as conscious, intelligent, and emotional as we are.

They just have different values than we do:

Humans value storytelling. Dogs value butt sniffing.
Humans value object collecting. Dogs value strategic pissing.
Humans value cuddling with loved ones. So do dogs.
And so forth.
posted by General Tonic at 8:25 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a person in my house who yawns more when she sees dogs yawn. This could get ugly.

10 IF ANYONE YAWNS GOTO 10
20 END
posted by mullicious at 8:50 AM on August 9, 2013


Animals are far smarter than we credit, to our discredit.

Sometimes I like to think that dogs are just as conscious, intelligent, and emotional as we are.


Hmm, sort-of. Animal intelligence is different than human intelligence. We anthropomorphize animals far too much to our own discredit and to the animals as well. It's not really fair to consider them "smart" or "stupid" by human standards, but as dogs have coevolved so closely with humans, they are probably the smartest non-humans on the human-centric scale and we're probably the best darned non-dogs on the dog scale.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:54 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


*yawn*

More studies that dogs respond to human emotions. Who'd 've thunk?
posted by yohko at 9:31 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


A puppy was mean to you once, right?

No, but I know they're just biding their time.
posted by yoink at 12:06 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, but I know they're just biding their time.

Are you saying that if you were trapped in a house in rural Saskatchewan with nothing to eat but a couple of dead dogs that you'd starve? I know I'd be googling recipes!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:33 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sophie, our most psychologically strange dog, fake-yawns at us all the time. It's usually when we're in bed and she's getting pet, and she has zero issues with losing her shit and getting aggressive when offended so I don't think it's aggression. She does have strange "please don't hurt me" reactions, so it may be her "I am a sweet harmless little baby puppy" ploy. Or she's deliberately trying to make us yawn, which would not entirely surprise me.

My husband isn't as good at the "real or fake Sophie yawn" game as I am. It's her tongue - you can see it tense and twist when she's yawning for real (as in the photo above), otherwise she's just opening her mouth in a yawn-like way.

Sophie scares me a little.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:04 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I yawn just reading the word yawn. This thread is killing my jaw.
posted by Mick at 9:53 AM on August 10, 2013


As I understand it, the limbic parts of a dog's brain (parts that govern emotion) are as large in relation to overall body size as the limbic parts of the human brain. So, although dogs have a smaller neocortex, their emotional brain is comparable to ours, suggesting that dogs may be capable of feelings every bit as much as a human, but unable to frame those feelings in a larger context.
posted by gregor-e at 1:18 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


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