Turns Out Puppy-Dog Eyes Are A Myth

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit
A dauschund puppy giving puppy dog eyes.
Unsplash | Christopher Cassidy

We all know that expression. Big eyes, looking up at us from below, whites of their eyes showing, a question in their head that they so desperately want us to say yes to, we've all been manipulated by puppy-dog eyes.

We think we have been, anyway, as a recent study suggests that puppy-dog eyes are actually a myth. When being performed by dogs, anyway.

We don't really know a lot about our pets' emotions.

A girl kissing her dog's head.
Unsplash | Chewy

Namely dogs! A recent study has shared that humans struggle to decipher dogs' facial expressions. Some of them, anyway.

Lasana Harris, a professor of social neuroscience at UCL, explained further.

Humans are great at detecting canine anger.

A dauschund puppy giving puppy dog eyes.
Unsplash | Christopher Cassidy

That's about where it ends though, as we're notoriously awful at spotting sadness.

Most humans would rely on what we call "puppy-dog eyes" to tell when a dog is sad, them looking up pleadingly at us, but that's actually a human thing.

Dogs are fully incapable of (knowingly) performing puppy-dog eyes.

A pitbull begging their owner for something.
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"'Puppy-dog eyes’ are not an expression seen in dogs or puppies, but a cultural concept to signify a more shallow sadness or regret, or as a deceptive tool to convince someone to facilitate a request," said Harris.

Basically, we're projecting.

A chimp holding a baby in its arms.
Unsplash | Anna Roberts

These results were found thanks to a study that measured whether were better at understanding the facial expressions of dogs or chimps.

Though we struggle in some areas, the answer was still dogs, likely due to how long they've been domesticated companions alongside us.

We're also really good at spotting anger across the board.

A girl hugging her dog.
Unsplash | Wade Austin Ellis

“A popular theory surrounding the domestication of dogs is that a lack of aggression allowed wolf-pups to enter campsites and remain with hunter-gatherer humans," Harris explained, "Therefore, we pay attention to safety signals from dogs, and joy/pleasure expressions are certainly that."

"I think sadness and fear don’t hold the same evolutionary importance, and as a result, people attended to them less."

h/t: Telegraph