‘Puppy Dog Eyes’ Are Associated With Eye Movements, Not Communication

Bremhorst, Anika, Mills, Daniel, Stolzlechner, Lisa , Wurbel, Hanno and Riemer, Stefanie (2021) ‘Puppy Dog Eyes’ Are Associated With Eye Movements, Not Communication. Frontiers in Psychology, 12 . ISSN 1664-1078

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.568935

‘Puppy Dog Eyes’ Are Associated With Eye Movements, Not Communication
Published Open Access journal
Bremhorst, A., et al. (2021) ‘Puppy dog eyes’ are associated with eye movements, not communication. Frontiers in psychology, (12) 163..pdf - Whole Document
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


The inner brow raiser is a muscle movement that increases the size of the orbital cavity, leading to the appearance of so-called ‘puppy dog eyes’. In domestic dogs, this expression was suggested to be enhanced by artificial selection and to play an important role in the dog-human relationship. Production of the inner brow raiser has been shown to be sensitive to the attentive stance of a human, suggesting a possible communicative function. However, it has not yet been examined whether it is sensitive to human presence. In the current study, we aimed to test whether the inner brow raiser differs depending on the presence or absence of an observer. We used two versions of a paradigm in an equivalent experimental setting in which dogs were trained to expect a reward; however, the presence/absence of a person in the test apparatus was varied. In the social context, a human facing the dog delivered the reward; in the non-social context, reward delivery was automatized. If the inner brow raiser has a communicative function and dogs adjust its expression to an audience, we expect it to be shown more frequently in the social context (when facing a person in the apparatus) than in the non-social context (when facing the apparatus without a person inside). The frequency of the inner brow raiser differed between the two contexts, but contrary to the prediction, it was shown more frequently in the non-social context. We further demonstrate that the inner brow raiser is strongly associated with eye movements and occurs independently in only 6% of cases. This result challenges the hypothesis that the inner brow raiser has a communicative function in dog-human interactions and suggests a lower-level explanation for its production, namely an association with eye movements.

Keywords:dog, DogFACS, facial expressions, inner brow raiser, AU101, puppy dog eyes, social use, signal
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D390 Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:46957
Deposited On:18 Oct 2021 11:19

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