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Keeping A Close Eye: Dogs, Social Referencing, And Evolution

BARBARA J. KING: ‘When humans talk to each other or walk alongside each other, we tend to match each other’s subtle movements. Called interpersonal movement synchrony in the science literature and mirroring in the popular media, it’s an often-unconscious process during which we match our gestures and pace to that of our social partner of the moment… In the journal Animal Cognition, Charlotte Duranton, Thierry Bedossa, and Florence Gaunet note that this process is “evolutionarily adaptive” for us: “It contributes to communication between individuals by signaling the convergence of their inner states and fostering social cohesion.”

Then, these three researchers present evidence to show that dogs synchronize their walking pace with their humans in a way that may also reflect an evolutionary adaptation… In an experiment, 36 pet dogs… synchronized their pace closely with their owners, speeding up when the owners walked at an unnaturally fast pace… A second finding is also striking: The dogs spent more time gazing at their owners in the fast-walk condition than in the other two conditions…

Do the findings seem unremarkable? I think, on the contrary, it shows the degree of incredible attunement that the dogs work to create with humans… Where does the evolutionary adaptation part come in? In a broad way, all the results fit with this notion. It’s reasonable to think that during the domestication process, dogs who attuned to and checked in with humans had higher rates of survival and, more significantly, reproduction’. SOURCE…


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