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Do Dogs Resemble Their Owners?

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

Research looking at looking alike
by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

Do Dogs Resemble Their Owners? Yes.
“Do Dogs Resemble Their Owners?” M.M. Roy and Nicholas J.S. Christenfeld, Psychological Science, vol. 15, no. 5, May 2004, pp. 361-3. (Thanks to Richard Wassersug and numerous others for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, who are at the University of California, San Diego, report that:

Forty-five dogs and their owners were photographed separately, and judges were shown one owner, that owner’s dog, and one other dog, with the task of picking out the true match.… The results suggest that when people pick a pet, they seek one that, at some level, resembles them, and when they get a purebred, they get what they want.

Do Dogs Resemble Their Owners? Maybe Not.
“Do Dogs Resemble Their Owners? A Reanalysis of Roy and Christenfeld (2004),” D.W. Levine, Psychological Science, vol. 16, 2005, pp. 83–84. The author, at the University of South Carolina, reports:

Roy and Christenfeld’s (2004) recent article claimed that student judges were able to match purebred dogs with their owners. The analyses reported fail to support this claim, however, because they rely on statistical assumptions that cannot be met with the experimental design.... the analyses and results presented here demonstrate that it is premature to conclude “dogs resemble their owners.”

Do Dogs Resemble Their Owners? Yes.
“Self Seeks Like: Many Humans Choose Their Dog Pets Following Rules Used for Assortative Mating,” Christina Payne and Klaus Jaffe, Journal of Ethology, vol. 23, no. 1, 2005, pp. 15–18. The authors, at Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela, report:

During the National Canine Exposition in Caracas 2002, we took photographs of 48 dogs (purebreds) and photos of their 48 respective owners, who agreed to participate in this study. The owners were a typical selection of Venezuelan races, a mixture of hybrids between African, Caucasian and American Indian races....

To assess a possible resemblance between the faces of the dogs and their human owners, the photographs of the six dogs were placed on a table. The photos of the six corresponding human subjects were randomly shuffled and handed over to a test subject. The test subject had to assign each of the photographs of humans to a dog....

The number of correct guesses, i.e. guessed pairs of photographs corresponding to actual owner–dog pairs, was far larger than expected by random guessing in most experiments.... The results presented here are completely compatible with the notion that humans develop a sense of beauty through imprint-like mechanisms. This sense of beauty must have a strong narcissistic component.

Detail from the study “Self Seeks Like: Many Humans Choose Their Dog Pets Following Rules Used for Assortative Mating.”

Dogs Resemble Their Owners. Yes, Yes.
“Dogs Still Do Resemble Their Owners,” Michael M. Roy and Nicholas J.S. Christenfeld, Psychological Science, vol. 16, no. 9, 2005, pp. 743-744. The authors write:

Using a new technique and new judges with the same set of pictures, we obtained the same result as in our original study. In addition to this confirmation, another recent study (Payne & Jaffe, 2005) has also found resemblance between purebreds and their owners, this time with dogs, owners, and judges from Venezuela. In short, we suggest the data allow us to answer the question of whether dogs, if purebred, resemble their owners. Dogs do.

Do Dogs Resemble Their Owners? Maybe Not.
“Another Look at ‘Look-Alikes’: Can Judges Match Belongings with Their Owners?” Georg W. Alpers and Antje B.M. Gerdes, Journal of Individual Differences, vol. 27, no. 1, 2006, pp. 38–41. The authors, at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany, explain:

Popular belief and recent findings suggest that dogs look like their owners - but are such pairs necessarily look-alikes or do we recognize their affiliation based on other information? We asked judges to match automobiles with their owners. They were able to identify the pairs above chance. The correlational analyses of actual information about owners’ and automobiles’ characteristics and their estimations suggest that stereotypes with respect to external clues about the owner and the automobiles were available to judges. People’s appearance and certain characteristics of their possessions apparently carry information beyond physiognomic resemblance and these clues help to make inferences about their affiliation....

Our results cannot be explained by physiognomic resemblance, a notion put forward by studies matching dogs and their owners (Payne & Jaffe, 2005; Roy & Christenfeld, 2004).

(Images credit: Cesar Dog Food)


The article above is from the July-August 2015 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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