“Puppy-dog Eyes”-Who’s domesticating who?

This article by John Hartigan examines the science of the loving and adorable “puppy-dog eyes” that dogs often give to their owners in times of want or guilt. He shows that the gazing of dogs into the eyes of their owners has an impact on both parties, eliciting a strong release of oxytocin for both species. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that is greatly released during times of affection, often towards loved ones. He states that it seems dogs have “hijacked the human bonding pathway” in the fact that they have adapted to the human means of communication. It is no doubt that eye-contact is extremely important in human communication and interaction, present even at very early ages of infancy. He argues that this was a crucial trait in dogs that lead to their strong domestication by humans- the fact that dogs are considered “man’s best friend”, and widely popular in the world. It seems as if they have evolutionarily found a way into the good graces of humans by using the psychological “cuteness” channel that we have for children. When pondering the fact that dogs often do this when they have done something wrong may be another story though. Research has shown that dogs are extremely sensitive to environmental and social cues, so this behavior might be effective in the owners withholding punishment that they can feel may be coming, even though they don’t necessarily know what they did wrong. So in the grand scheme of things it is interesting to view this from an anthropological perspective: who’s domesticating who?


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