Researchers Reveal Horses’ Ability to Identify Human Expressions

Researchers Reveal Horses’ Ability to Identify Human Expressions

Psychologists at Sussex University carried out a research on the horses capabilities to understand emotions. The outcome revealed that horses very much possess the ability to differentiate between the positive and negative expressions displayed by humans. The equine specie is extremely well versed with reading human facial expressions. Last year the researchers gathered a list of facial expressions, which are likely to explain horse’s emotions. This time they simply turned the experiment on horse’s head.

Horses were presented with life-size, color pictures of the same human, displaying various emotions. The emotions were either of smiling or baring teeth in anger. These pictures were shown to28 horses gathered from five riding or livery stables located in Sussex and Surrey. When shown angry pictures, horses turned away their head and looked at the picture from his left or sinister side. In addition, a rise in the heart rate of the horses was also experienced.

The reason behind the response was that the right part of the brain records and analyses the data from the left eye. This part of the brain is responsible for handling intimidating or threatening stimuli. This study has taken the progress in terms of horses’ research to a new level, after it had already been known that horses are capable of giving intricate facial expressions to display their frame of mind.

The outcome of this study has generated curiosity regarding the nature of recognition of emotional expression by horses. This includes how its development is affected by the comparative roles played by learning and instinctive abilities.

“Horses may have adopted an ancestral ability for reading emotional cues in other horses to respond appropriately to human facial expressions during their co-evolution. Alternatively, individual horses may have learned to interpret human expressions during their own lifetime,” said Karen McComb, the head of the research group and co-lead author of the study.


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