Dogs Look Like Their Owners: Replications with Racially Homogenous Owner Portraits

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Previous studies conducted in the United States and Venezuela have demonstrated that people can correctly match portraits of unknown purebred dogs with their owners at statistically significant levels, suggesting that the popular belief in dog–owner physical resemblance is empirically valid. We investigated the perceived physical resemblance of dog–owner pairs in Japan, where the owners are racially more homogenous than in the countries in which the previous studies were conducted. In experiment 1, the matching performance by na├»ve judges was statistically significant, and a supplementary test suggested that perceived dog–owner physical resemblance plays a critical role in this. Experiment 2 presented a new procedure to test the perceived dog–owner physical resemblance and demonstrated that two-thirds of the judges selected a set of 20 real dog–owner pairs over a set of 20 fake dog–owner pairs, irrespective of whether it was an ownership-guessing task or a resemblance-based choice task. The ability to match correct dog–owner pairs (experiment 1) and the sensitivity to differentiate between real and fake dog–owner pairs (experiment 2) were not unique to the characteristics of the judges (e.g., whether or not they were dog lovers) because the task performance was independent of any measured judge-related factor. These results, taken together, provide another piece of positive evidence for the popular belief that there is a physical resemblance between dogs and their owners. Furthermore, the demonstration of dog–owner physical resemblance with racially homogeneous owner samples supports the generality and robustness of this phenomenon. The mechanism underlying this phenomenon (i.e., owners' selection of dogs that look like themselves or the convergence of appearance over time), however, remains to be elucidated by future studies.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2009

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