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Goats Can Understand Human Expressions And Are Drawn To Smiling Faces

caitlyn.clancey 18 Sep 2019

If you're anything like me, your interactions with goats are pretty few and far between. I think the last time I even saw one in person was at a petting zoo, and if I remember correctly, it tried to eat my scarf. So it wasn't exactly the friendliest of encounters.

But, as limited as my experience with goats has been, I find myself inclined to hang out with them more after learning that these bleating fellas are actually drawn to smiling, happy faces. And aren't we all?

A new study out of Queen Mary, University of London, has found that goats are able to read human expressions, and unsurprisingly, they prefer the positive ones.

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The purpose of the study, which was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, was to determine whether animals domesticated for production, such as goats, are as sensitive to human emotional expressions as those domesticated for companionship, like dogs.

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A previous study from 2017 sought to prove that our favorite pups identify facial expressions.

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Conducted by the University of Helsinki, this particular research project found that dogs are actually attracted to smiling faces, particularly those belong to their owners.

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Apparently, dogs who took part in the study were more interested in smiling faces than angry ones.

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In fact, focusing on images of smiling faces enhanced the dogs' emotional state more than angry ones.

So not only were they more drawn to positive expressions, but those expressions actually made the dogs happier, too.

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As part of the goat study, researchers presented a group of goats with two photos ⁠— one with a happy face and the other with an angry one.

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The goats were left to wander as their little hearts desired, and all of them chose to approach the happier face to give it a closer look.

In fact, not a single goat wanted anything to do with the negative picture.

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Whenever the happy picture was placed on the right side of the pen, all the goats were drawn to it.

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However, their interest waned whenever it was placed on the left side, though researchers suspect this can be attributed to the fact that goats use only one side of their brain to process information.

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So what can we take away from this study?

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Well, according to researchers, the results firmly conclude that goats can not only distinguish between different human facial expressions, but they also generally prefer happy ones:

"These findings suggest that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of domestication as companions, and therefore may be far more widespread than previously believed."

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To put it simply, dogs and goats aren't so different after all.

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Just like your doggo knows when you're in a good mood, so does a goat. And in fact, they actually prefer you that way.

h/t: Royal Society Open Science

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