We all know people and their dogs look alike. After all, check out Winston Churchill and his bulldog.
Except Churchill had poodles.
So do people really look like their dogs? Or is it an urban myth?
Ask Science If People Look Like Their Dogs
Some scientists had extra grant money hanging around. So they decided to experiment to see if people actually do look like their dogs.
Studies in the U.S. and Venezuela found that strangers were able to pair pictures of dogs with their people at a rate higher than statistical chance. What does that mean?
A freaking 80% of the time—80%!—people matched the person and dog who belonged together.
At first, scientists thought people chose dogs with similar characteristics. Women with long hair prefer dogs with long floppy ears, for example. Redheads prefer Irish Setters. That kind of thing.
One Japanese scientist wondered what would happen if they did the test with a more racially homogeneous population. What actually makes us look like our pets? And guess what? Even in a population where every human had dark hair and eyes, people still matched the dogs to their humans most of the time.
So if it wasn’t hair color or other physical characteristics that make people and their dogs look alike, what was it?
The scientist, Dr. Nakajima, started covering up the faces one feature at a time. And when he covered the human’s eyes, the guesses were only right about 50% of the time. In other words, about what you’d expect from someone guessing.
However, when the subjects saw only the dog’s and persons’s eyes, once again they made correct matches around 75% of the time.
So the eyes have it.
We look like our dogs because of something in our eyes.
Look Deep Into My Eyes
Eyes are very expressive. If you want to know if someone is really smiling or faking it, look at their eyes. In a fake smile, only the mouth turns up. But in a genuine smile, the corners of the eyes wrinkle.
So when people match dogs and their people by looking at the eyes, are they matching an attitude more than appearance?
I’ve got to know more.
I could hang around the psychology labs up at Cornell hoping someone decides to do such a study and invites me to participate.
Or I could run one myself.
Power to the people. We don’t need no stinking scientists.
And you can help.
Let’s See If You Look Like Your Dog
Send me pictures. I’ll post them here and we’ll see how many people match you with your dog.
But let’s try to be at least somewhat scientific.
Let’s follow the rules that Dr. Nakajima used for his studies as best we can. Use these guidelines for taking the pictures of you and your dog:
- take headshots only, cropped at the shoulders
- take the pictures against a white wall (or plain, light-colored background, if you can’t find white)
- please send one person picture with one dog only
- smile slightly
- take the pictures of you and your dog separately.
If you need help, check out sample photos from Dr. Nakajima’s study.
I’ll collect photos until September 20 and then I’ll post them in a test here. You can send your pictures to me at somethingwagging at gmail dot com.
Are you in?
Oh, and let’s spread the word so we get a wide range of pictures. From people who don’t publish pictures of themselves with their dogs on blogs. From people who don’t even read blogs. Heck, I’ll even take pictures of people with their cats.
Spread the word on Facebook. Ask your sister to send a picture with her dog. Let’s see if we can get the same results with hundreds of pictures that Dr. Nakajima got with a small sample. Feel free to share the announcement above, just right click to download it onto your computer so you can share it.
And let’s give a prize to the random winner who pairs the most dogs with their people. We’ll have some fun with this.
Learn the truth. Do you really look like your dog?
Your Turn: Do you think you and your dog look alike? What if you have more than one dog? Will you be sending your pictures in for our experiment?
photo credits: (man in striped shirt with dog)gareth1953 the original via photopin cc, (policeman & Belgian Malinois dogs) West Midlands Police via photopin cc. Click on images to learn more about the photographer.