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"S/he *looks* guilty..." // Dogs don't do 'guilt' - & research backs this up.

U know the 'look' - U scold the dog, & s/he drops their head, slicks ears back, & cringes slightly, with a facial expression that many humans interpret as guilt.

"Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches psychology and animal behavior at Barnard College in New York, has probed the guilty look that dogs give, flattening their ears back and ducking their heads.

"In work recently accepted for publication in the journal Behavioural Processes, Horowitz had owners show their dog a desirable treat and then tell the dog not to eat it. They would leave the room and the experimenter would either give the dog the treat or take it away. When the owners returned, some dogs were scolded, even if they had not disobeyed.
"Researchers found that dogs looked most guilty when they were scolded, especially when they did not eat the treat. That suggests dogs are responding to a social cue.

Even though we [humans] may associate a certain look with the way we feel, teasing out dogs'... thoughts & feelings requires careful experimentation."

PsychNet comment - - shorten that long URL into a tiny URL

original article:
It’s an Owner’s Scolding That Makes a ‘Guilty’ Dog - The New York Times

Personally, i think dogs just react to human anger by trying to turn it off; every signal we interpret as 'guilt' is also an appeasing signal, used by dogs to communicate with other dogs. Dogs use many identical signals with both humans & dogs - on the recieving end, dogs interpret human gestures & facial expression with remarkable acuity.
That we humans are nowhere near as good at translating dogs' communications with us is, unfortunately, also true. :eek:

- terry

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