A smile can speak a thousand words but those words may remain in the wilderness if the recipient doesn’t speak human. Of course animals have many ways in which to interpret our emotions and intentions. They can listen to our voices, smell our bodily chemicals, touch us with their paws, hands and claws, taste us with their overworked tongues and they can see us with observant eyes.
They can see us.
This final sense is quite curious when we are thinking about animals watching us. What is it they are actually seeing? We know they understand many forms of visible body language but what about our faces? Is there any evidence they understand anything from our facial expressions and if there is, what would they be basing their understanding on? Is there anything we could do to aid their understanding of our facial expressions? Racing ahead, what would any inter-species facial communication between humans and animals mean for possible future meetings with extra-terrestrials?
Let’s begin by looking at some of the evidence available. In 2004, the Journal of Comparative Psychology published the results of a study that showed dolphins instinctively comprehend human gazing to the extent that they understand the difference between what the study called static gazing and dynamic gazing. Static gazing being an idle stare with no action required and dynamic gazing meaning a gaze that prompted the dolphins to interact with an object. No verbal commands or prior training were needed for the dolphins to comprehend the difference. Read the rest