Dogs Mimic Their Pals’ Playful Behaviors: emotional contagion, a basic form of empathy

While playing, dogs mimic their furry pals more often than they copy strangers — a behavior that could reveal more about how dogs became man’s best friend, researchers say.

Mimicking behavior may underlie what scientists call emotional contagion, a basic form of empathy where one shares others’ emotions.

In people, chimpanzees, orangutans and other primates, emotional contagion is linked to facial mimicry, a fast automatic response where they involuntarily mimic others’ expressions.

Like primates, dogs are social animals — they use their eyes, lips, teeth, heads, tails and bodies in communicative ways. As such, researchers wanted to see if dogs also experienced rapid mimicry. 

by Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor