Can Your Doggo Really Feel Empathy?

Hi Tribe!! 💜💜💜 It’s the Yettie in the Pink Underwear back to tell you guys about how your cute doggos help you feel better when you’re sad. Most people can tell that their dog knows how they’re feeling. If your dog has ever brought you something when you were sad or jumped around with you when you were excited, you know what I’m talking about. 😁😁

What is your Doggo Feeling?

All the time, we read stories posted online about doggos hugging their people when they’re crying. 😢 We see funny videos of dogs paw-in-hand with their people dancing around in their living rooms. 🕺💃 A lot of people believe that this is empathy we’re seeing in dogs, but others aren’t so sure. Well it looks like empathy, and it feels like empathy, so if it’s not empathy, then what is it? Many psychologists think that dogs don’t have the ability to feel or act on empathy, since they believe that it’s too complex. Comparisons are often made between the minds of dogs and the minds of human toddlers. 🐶🧒 Since empathy is an emotion that has to be learned, most human children aren’t really capable of it until they’re about 4 years old, which is slightly older than the children who are believed to be similar to doggos. These psychologists think that “emotional contagion” is what makes your dog come comfort you, not empathy. With emotional contagion, someone (in this case, your doggo) reacts to a situation without really understanding how the other person is feeling. 🤔 In this situation, your dog becomes sad when you’re sad, and actually comes to you to comfort themselves, not to comfort you. Some psychologists even think that’s too complex, claiming that your doggo is just curious of the way you’re acting and wants to sniff you to see what’s up. 

Putting Doggos to the Test

Two psychologists from London did an experiment with some dogs and their owners to see if they can measure empathy in the doggos, like they can in human toddlers. They set up 18 dogs in their homes with their owner and a stranger. 👩👨 The people took turns crying to see if the dog would react differently to someone unfamiliar in comparison to their owners. The thought is, if the doggos are really feeling empathy, they’ll comfort both people in the same or similar ways, but if it’s just emotional contagion, they will seek their owner in both situations. If the dog is just upset by the stranger’s crying, they won’t go to someone who’s unfamiliar to comfort themselves. When the doggos saw their upset owners, they went to nudge them or lay in their laps like they usually would. 💜 The crying strangers also consistently received similar attention and sympathy from the dogs, but some psychologists still think that this is just curiosity. 🤔 The psychologists in charge of this procedure did think of this, and included another small piece in their experiment to test that too. Both people would hum or speak with unusual articulation to see how the doggos reacted to the strange sounds. 🎶 The fact that they had little to no response to the weird behavior showed that they weren’t motivated to approach the people out of their own curiosity. The obvious conclusion to this experiment is that dogs have learned both empathy and sympathy, and they genuinely comfort humans based on the behavior they see and hear. 💕 If you were ever skeptical about why your cute doggos act the way they do when you’re upset, now you know it’s because they want to help you feel better. 💜

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