The reward value of the owner’s face for dogs

16 August, 2021

In the scope of project 169/16 - The potential effect of behavioral stimulation on social competence in dogs (via endogenous oxytocin release), supported by the BIAL Foundation, Anna Kis published the paper The implicit reward value of the owner’s face for dogs im the journal iScience.

“It is increasingly assumed that domestication has equipped dogs with unique socio-cognitive skills, which raises the possibility of intriguing parallels between the social-motivational systems of the two species. However, the positive incentive value of human facial stimuli is a largely unexplored area. Here we investigated whether the owner’s face serves as a social reinforcer. In a two-way choice task N=39 dogs were presented with a short video about their owners’ head showing the face (Facing Owner- FO) vs. the back of the head (Non-facing Owner - NFO). Despite both locations containing equal food reward, dogs approached the container associated with FO more frequently (p < .001) and this was not affected by side, trial order and choice latency. However, the considerable inter-individual differences in dogs’ task performance suggest that the added social component required special social skills which need to be further explored.”