Rapid mimicry and emotional contagion in domestic dogs

Emotional contagion is a basic form of empathy that makes individuals able to experience others’ emotions. In human and non-human primates, emotional contagion can be linked to facial mimicry, an automatic and fast response (less than 1 s) in which individuals involuntary mimic others’ expressions. Here, we tested whether body (play bow, PBOW) and facial (relaxed open-mouth, ROM) rapid mimicry is present in domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) during dyadic intraspecific play. During their free playful interactions, dogs showed a stronger and rapid mimicry response (less than 1 s) after perceiving PBOW and ROM (two signals typical of play in dogs) than after perceiving JUMP and BITE (two play patterns resembling PBOW and ROM in motor performance). Playful sessions punctuated by rapid mimicry lasted longer that [than?] those sessions punctuated only by signals. Moreover, the distribution of rapid mimicry was strongly affected by the familiarity linking the subjects involved: the stronger the social bonding, the higher the level of rapid mimicry. In conclusion, our results demonstrate the presence of rapid mimicry in dogs, the involvement of mimicry in sharing playful motivation and the social modulation of the phenomenon. All these findings concur in supporting the idea that a possible linkage between rapid mimicry and emotional contagion (a building-block of empathy) exists in dogs. © 2015 The Authors.

Emotional contagion is a basic form of empathy that makes individuals able to experience others’ emotions. In human and non-human primates, emotional contagion can be linked to facial mimicry, an automatic and fast response (less than 1 s) in which individuals involuntary mimic others’ expressions. Here, we tested whether body (play bow, PBOW) and facial (relaxed open-mouth, ROM) rapid mimicry is present in domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) during dyadic intraspecific play. During their free playful interactions, dogs showed a stronger and rapid mimicry response (less than 1 s) after perceiving PBOW and ROM (two signals typical of play in dogs) than after perceiving JUMP and BITE (two play patterns resembling PBOW and ROM in motor performance). Playful sessions punctuated by rapid mimicry lasted longer that [than?] those sessions punctuated only by signals. Moreover, the distribution of rapid mimicry was strongly affected by the familiarity linking the subjects involved: the stronger the social bonding, the higher the level of rapid mimicry. In conclusion, our results demonstrate the presence of rapid mimicry in dogs, the involvement of mimicry in sharing playful motivation and the social modulation of the phenomenon. All these findings concur in supporting the idea that a possible linkage between rapid mimicry and emotional contagion (a building-block of empathy) exists in dogs. © 2015 The Authors.

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