Dogs have an extraordinarily keen sense of the world around them. They can sense human pain and suffering, happiness and sickness, as well as change in weather. Does a dog’s unique ability imply that they have some sort of supernatural power?
Dogs can pick up on human emotion and tone of voice, according to a recent study in Current Biology. Researchers found through that dogs and humans have similar ways of processing social cues. In order to see activity in a dog’s brain, the scientists trained 11 dogs to sit still in a MRI scanner. During the study the researchers gave the dogs headphones and played 200 different sounds for them to hear, including a range of human, dog, and environmental noises. They then took a look at which part of the dogs’ brains responded to those sounds.
Through this study, they found that the place where humans and dogs process tones took place in the same part of the brain, which explains why dogs can respond similarly to humans with emotional cues.
A dog’s sensitivity goes beyond understanding emotions. Some even believe that dogs have the ability to pick up on sickness and cancer in the early stages. A study published by Integrative Cancer Therapies in 2006 gave scientific evidence that dogs have the ability to distinguish between those who were healthy and those who had lung and breast cancer by smelling the breath of cancer patients.
Furthermore dogs, and animals in general, can feel certain natural disasters before they occur. Animals are extremely in tune with their environments and can feel when there is a shift in their habitat. A dog’s keen senses is what enables them to feel changes in the environment. Scientists believe that dogs can sense the atmospheric change of pressure in the environment. When the pressure drops, a storm occurs. Thus, dogs have the ability to know a storm is coming before it actually hits. Dogs can also sense static electricity due to thunderstorms or rumblings of an earthquake before it occurs. Their sense of smell also aids them in detecting precipitation in the air or a change of environment.
Over the years, there have been discussions about whether or not dogs have the power to supernaturally read person’s mind. A dog owner might often state that their pet understands them or knows what he/she is thinking or feeling. However, this does not need to be attributed to a dog’s putative telepathic abilities, since it is due in large part to the animal’s understanding of human emotions.
Some psychologists believe that dogs have a “theory of mind.” Theory of mind happens when individuals realize that others view the world different from themselves, and that people will act according to their own views on the world. To be able to understand what the other sees is called “perspective taking.” This can be viewed “reading the other’s mind” because it causes one comprehend what the other is thinking.
A study done by the University of Florida showed that dogs approached humans who made eye contact with them for food instead of those who were wearing blindfolds. They responded to people who give them attention. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, states that this suggests a “theory of mind” because dogs are able to perceive social cues.
Although dogs are greatly loved among many and may be thought to have supernatural abilities or powers, it is actually their keen senses and the way that their brains are wired which causes them to be especially responsive to humans. In that sense, a dog can read his or her owner’s mind.
By Joyce Chu