Dogs and humans share similarities in reading body language, study finds

A new study reveals dogs and humans process body postures in similar ways in their brains.
Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji Bello
Dog and Man
Dog and man


It has been revealed that dogs and humans process body postures in remarkably similar ways in their brains. This discovery sheds light on how dogs and humans perceive and understand each other and their surrounding environment. The study was published in the journal Communications Biology and uncovered new insights into the role of the temporal lobe in social communication and perception.

You may be familiar with the fact that humans and primates possess specialized brain regions in the temporal lobe responsible for recognizing faces and bodies. You may not know that dogs also have a temporal lobe that has evolved independently from that of primates.

Recent behavioral research has indicated that dogs, much like humans, are adept at perceiving facial expressions and bodily gestures, such as hand signals. However, whether this behavioral expertise is reflected in the dog's brain has remained a mystery until now.

Lead author Magdalena Boch and her research group, comprising of Claus Lamm and Ludwig Huber, embarked on a unique endeavor. Their team is one of only four in the world conducting magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies with pet dogs.

To ensure the comfort of their furry participants, they developed specialized training protocols that gradually familiarized the dogs with the MRI environment. Crucially, the dogs were not sedated during the process and were free to leave the MRI at any time.

The study involved 40 human participants and 15 pet dogs, and the results were remarkable. For the first time, evidence was provided that dogs, like humans, possess a specialized brain region in the temporal lobe dedicated to the visual perception of body postures. Additionally, other regions in the dog brain were found to be equally involved in perceiving faces and bodies.

However, unlike humans, the activation of these regions in dogs extended beyond visual brain areas. Interestingly, when dogs observed faces and bodies, differences in activation were also noted in areas responsible for processing smells.

Dogs and humans share similarities in reading body language, study finds
Dog and human similarities

Magdalena Boch explains, "We humans often focus on the face when communicating. Our results suggest that faces are also an important source of information for dogs. However, body postures and holistic perception play a superior role." These findings indicate that while dogs pay attention to facial cues, they place greater emphasis on body language when deciphering social signals.

Expanding the similarities between dogs and humans.

Surprisingly, the specialized brain regions in dogs were equally active when they viewed images of their fellow canines or humans. This observation highlights the deep bond between dogs and humans.

Ludwig Huber remarks, "Dogs and humans may not be closely related, but they have been close companions for thousands of years. Therefore, comparing dogs and humans also gives us new insights into the so-called convergent evolution of social perception and information processing processes."

In essence, this implies that dogs and humans, despite their different evolutionary paths, have developed similar mechanisms for understanding and communicating.

This research expands our understanding of the intricate relationship between humans and dogs and provides valuable insights into the evolution of social perception in both species. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of the animal kingdom, it is becoming increasingly clear that our furry friends have much more in common with us than we previously thought.

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