Humans are not always able to recognize aggressive behavior, especially in the case of canine behavior. A study, published in the Plos One magazine, conducted by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology, Germany. The team, led by Juliane Brauer, involved 92 adults, who were shown videos showing the onset of a non-verbal interaction between two human babies, two pet dogs or two macaques.
Interpreting social dynamics and predicting the results, the authors comment, represent important skills, which allow you to react appropriately to situations, especially in the case of aggressive behavior. There were clues to the nature of the interaction in the footage, such as the protagonists’ body postures and facial expressions, but the images cut out before the two actors actually made contact. During the survey, 50 percent of the volunteers had to define the nature of the protagonists’ attitude, selecting a possibility between aggressive, neutral or playful. Instead, the remaining participants had to estimate the outcome of each other’s behavior.
The researchers found that people were more accurate at recognizing playful interactions, which were detected correctly 70 percent of the time. Participants were unable to recognize displays of aggression among the dogs. Humans may be biased into assuming good intentions from their own kind or from dogs, which could hinder the detection of aggressive behaviors.
“Being able to recognize aggression – conclude the authors – is a fundamental skill that allows you to react optimally to dangerous situations. Our work shows that humans tend to underestimate the danger of interactions with dogs. Better education on the ability to recognize and respond to hostile behavior could promote proper interaction with potentially aggressive animals.”