Life as We Know It
Dog faces, the history of laughter, snakes, and bird warning calls
- By Joseph Caputo, T.A. Frail, Megan Gambino, Ashley Luthern and Abigail Tucker
- Smithsonian magazine, August 2009
Name: The domestic dog, Canis familiaris.
Looks: Guilty (e.g., avoids eye contact, drops its tail, lies down, rolls onto its back, slinks off).
Thinks: Who knows? But a dog's guilty look is a reaction not to whatever the dog did, but to its owner's scolding, according to a study by psychologist Alexandra Horowitz of Barnard College. One telltale bit of data: dogs gave the guilty look when their owners mistakenly thought the dogs had eaten a forbidden treat, even when the dogs were completely innocent. More study—a lot more—is required to establish whether dogs have a conscience.
Learn more about the domestic dog at the Encyclopedia of Life.
"The mechanics of slithering locomotion," David L. Hu et al., PNAS, June 8, 2009.
"New nitrogen uptake strategy: specialized snow roots," Vladimir G. Onipchenko et al., Ecology Letters, June 4, 2009.
"Disambiguating the 'guilty look': Salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour," Alexandra Horowitz, Behavioural Processes, July 2009.
"Mobbing calls signal predator category in a kin group-living bird species," Michael Griesser, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, May 27, 2009.
"Reconstructing the Evolution of Laughter in Great Apes and Humans," Marina Davila Ross et al., Current Biology, June 4, 2009.