If You’re Happy And You Know It … Your Horse Does, Too

Multiple recent studies have shown that horses can distinguish between the human emotions of anger and joy, but few have focused on whether horses can discern between happiness and sadness. The National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) in France, the University of Tours in France and the University of Turku in Finland, worked together to create a study to determine whether horses could also distinguish between these human emotions.

The researchers were particularly interested in learning whether horses could react to sadness, which is a low-arousal emotion; horses most often react to higher-arousal emotions like joy or anger. Lead researcher Dr. Plotine Jardat, of the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, also wanted to determine if the horses could associate vocal and facial cues of human sadness. 

The team used 28 horses for the study, each wearing heart rate monitors as their actions were recorded. The horse faced two screens playing two different videos: one shows a happy person and the other a sad person. A voice was played at the same time, sounding happy or sad. The horses spent longer looking at the sad photo that was paired with a happy voice. The research team reported that this indicates that horses can link human faces and vocal inflections showing the same emotion of either happiness or sadness. They studied the mismatched photo for longer as it was confusing for them.

The horses were more attentive to the happy video, looking at it for longer, more often, or more rapidly than at the sad-person video. The horse’s heart rates increased when they heard a happy voice and decreased when they heard a sad voice, as well. 

Study results show that horses are able to discriminate between visual and auditory cues of human happiness or sadness. They are more attracted to happy faces. 

The scientists suggest that more research is needed to understand how horses perceive a range of human emotions, including sadness. They would specifically like to determine whether horses can differentiate between sadness and other negative emotions and if sad human expressions can influence equine behavior.  

 Read more at Equine Science Update. 

The post If You’re Happy And You Know It … Your Horse Does, Too appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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