(TMU) — Have you ever looked deep into the emotive, sad eyes of a dog and felt a profound sense of empathy? It turns out “puppy dog eyes” may just be evolution’s ingenious way of tugging at your heartstrings and manipulating you to the benefit of a dog, according to a recent study published by peer-reviewed U.S. scientific journal PNAS.
Researchers have discovered that through the historic process of domestication, dogs managed to develop specific facial muscles around their eyes which allow them to raise the inner part of their eyebrow in a manner that gives them “infant-like” eyes. That evolutionary step during domestication literally altered dogs’ anatomy to allow them to emotionally bond with humans and “create the illusion of human-like communication.”
Researchers at the University of Portsmouth compared the anatomy and behavior of dogs. The popular pet was first domesticated from wolves 33,000 years ago.
However, while wolves and dogs have a strikingly similar facial musculature, the area above the eyes differs. Unlike wolves and the ancient Siberian husky, dogs have a solid muscular structure surrounding their eyes versus the wolves’ “irregular cluster of fibers.”
The researchers say the muscle movement around the brow of the dog triggers nurturing responses in humans because it makes the eyes seem larger, similar to an infant child or a person who may be sad.