Why do dogs look like their owners?
It is somewhat of a myth in popular culture and a constant punch line in movies and cartoons, but recent studies have shown that dogs and owners that look alike are not a myth (it might still be a joke), and the reason why may surprise you.
Several researches in various countries have tried to debunk and/or confirm this theory and their results have been surprising. Recently in Japan, a study was conducted where test subjects were shown several pictures of human and dogs’ faces. The backgrounds and bodies were removed from the photos. Then they were asked to pair the dog to their respective owners. More often than not, the volunteers guessed correctly. Then the same researchers went as far as to cover the entire faces of both owners and dogs, leaving only the eyes exposed. People still managed to successfully pair them up 75% of the time.
Another study conducted in the 90’s asked several women to choose the breed of dog they preferred. They were shown four pictures of four different breeds of dogs and asked which one they preferred. Most women with long hair that covered their ears chose dogs with lop ears (long) and women who had short hair tended to choose dogs with pricked ears (short).
Scientists have found explanation to these outcomes in a psychological phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect. The mere-exposure effect is a psychological effect in which people tend to, unconsciously, choose elements that they’re familiar with. If our brain is acquainted with it, and we’re still alive, then it means that it is safe and therefore will grant our survival. If we think about it, dogs aren’t (most of the time) randomly assigned to people. They’re chosen by their future keepers. The concept also explains why we like to watch the same movies and listen to the same songs over and over again. The mere-exposure effect is not to be confused with nostalgia, that’s a different thing. Other humans are also affected by this kind of circumstance. Studies have proven that we tend to choose as friends and potential romantic partners people who share similar genes to ours.
There might also be other reasons to why dogs look like their owners. It has also been proven that dogs tend to imitate their owners’ facial expressions. For them it is a matter of life and death. They depend on our caring for them to have shelter and food. Being empathetic to their owners’ feelings, secures the dogs’ survival. Dogs are also affected by their owners’ lifestyles, which often leads to more similarities. Overweight humans more often than not own overweight dogs in the same way that a smoker might give their pet health issues like coughing, asthma and even lung cancer.
So next time you go hiking and spot a person and their dog that should belong in a look-a-like contest, you’ll know that it is not your brain playing tricks on you – They actually look like each other!