It is National Look Alike Day today, and people have long been fascinated about the resemblance between dogs and their owners. Although certain stereotypes exist about the type of dog that would suit a certain person based on looks, there is a lot of debate as to whether there is any truth in them. There have been many studies conducted to try and find out whether dogs and their owners do in fact look alike.
Psychologists say that people make certain choices based on familiarity because of the comfort they experience from something that is recognisable. For instance, someone may choose to listen to the same music they have listened to for many years, or read different variations of the same story. This is referred to as ‘the mere exposure effect’, simply meaning that people like what is familiar to them. It has been thought that someone may buy a type of car they have had before for this reason, or even select a spouse that looks similar to themselves or their parents. On this basis, there is the argument that people choose dogs according to whether they have previously had a particular breed, or if they can see their own traits mirrored in the dog.
Stanley Coren’s study supports this, as he concluded that women with longer hair covering their ears tend to favour breeds with longer ears that ‘frame’ the face, as opposed to those with ‘pricked’ ears that stand up on top of the head. Social psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld and graduate student Michael Roy asked participants in their study to pair up pictures of owners and purebred dogs, and 16 out of 25 were identified correctly. Both of these studies suggest that owners select dogs that look, in some way, similar to themselves.
The psychologist Sadahiko Nakajima argues that the eyes are a crucial factor in recognising a dog and owner pairing. Although he had previously conducted experiments where participants matched owners’ and dogs’ faces together, he wanted to test whether a certain facial feature was responsible for any likeness between them. He therefore created five different scenarios for participants to try to identify the owner and their dog. These were: no-mask, where both the dogs’ and owners’ faces were completely visible; eye-mask, where only the owners’ eyes were hidden by a black strip; mouth-mask, where the owners’ mouth was hidden; dog-eye-mask, where just the dogs’ eyes were covered; and eye-only, where just the dogs’ and owners’ eyes could be seen.
As Nakajima had discovered through past experiments, many people were able to correctly match the dog and their owner during the no-mask scenario, and in this instance 80% did so. However, it was astounding that in the eye-only scenario, 74% of the participants correctly guessed which dog belonged to which owner. What makes this even more interesting is that whenever the eyes of the owner or dog were covered, only around 50% of the participants correctly matched the pairs, reducing it to random chance. This suggests the eyes are significant in identifying a dog and owner match, and may even have an influence over the type of dog that someone chooses.
Studies such as these are increasingly providing more evidence to show that pet owners and their dogs look alike. Do you look just like your dog, or do you know someone that does? Why not post a picture on our Facebook or Twitter pages?