Staff photos

I know you have seen it -- you are taking a walk and up walks this lady and her dog. As the dog lifts its leg to pee you look at its face and notice, they look alike!

They just do. Actually there has been research done where they asked people to pick out owners and dogs and see if they could match up who goes with who and they did!

It seems that the thing we share with our canine brethren is the eyes. A Japanese psychologist Sadahiko Nakajima set out to solve this mystery. The recent study was published in the journal Anthrozoos. This wasn't the first crack he had at this either. He did research before that showed people could match owners with dogs just by facial recognition. But now he has taken it one step further to find out which facial feature is the clue.

Nakajima and colleagues started off with 502 college kids from Japan  and gave them photos of 40 people and dogs. The only thing they could see were the shoulders up. People and dog were paired up, some in the correct owner combo. The others were random. Their mission was to identify actual pets and owners. Ready for this? They chose correctly 80% of the time. 

Success rate

For the next part, they covered parts of the pics -- either the dogs' or the humans' eyes or mouth.They still had a success rate of picking 73% of the time. when they saw just the eyes success was still pretty good  at 74% .

According to Slate, Nakajima was so surprised by their ability to do this by seeing just the eye regions that he said let's do it again and he used a different group of subjects on the eyes-only component. He repeated it just to be sure. This group did even better than their counterparts: 76% picked correctly. 

What's really odd or amazing about this study is that it's not in the smiles of the people and it's not that a dog was fat and the owner was as well. Or a poodle had curly hair and so did the owner. It was the eyes. Japanese people have slanted eyes and dogs don't. So what was the clue?

What Nakajima revealed was that it  is something about a shared look in the eyes of owner and dog. The reason is still a mystery to Nakajima  and the rest of the researchers. I guess it's the reason when my dogs look at me with those big brown eyes and they want a treat I go get one too! Maybe it's the other way around.

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