Pet Lookalikes

Delving into the age-old fact or fiction of people/pet resemblance

By Brian Reynolds

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Animal lovers have always found resemblances between pets and their owners, whether in deportment or demeanor. But is there really any truth to that old axiom that people resemble their pets? Or is it just a fun myth?

Professor Sadahiko Nakajima from the University of Kwansei Gakuin in Nishinomiya Japan set out to answer this age-old question once and for all, by undertaking several studies of pets and their owners. His findings? It looks like your mug, and Fido’s muzzle, are really two peas in a pod. Or more like two dogs in a kennel.    Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 5.14.48 PM

Professor Nakajima’s first study had 20 sets of real owner-dog pairs and 20 sets of fake owner-dog pairs and participants were asked to identify the real owner-dog pairs. Astonishingly, the participants were able to pick the correct pairings approximately two thirds of the time.

So what is the link between dogs and their owners that makes people able to tell them apart from the phonies? To find out, Professor Nakajima conducted another study and found that the resemblance is not just in the eye of the beholder; it’s literally in the eyes. Expanding on the first experiment, Nakajima added five masking conditions. In the first set of conditions, the dog and owner appeared as is. In the second set, a black bar was placed over the eyes of the owner, in the third set a black bar was placed over the eyes of the dog, the fourth set placed a black bar over the mouth of the owner, while the final set showed only the dog and owner’s eyes. With no mask, about 80% of the time the real owner-dog pairs were picked. When the mouth of the owner was covered the participants chose correctly 73% of the time and and the eyes-only test pulled in an impressive 74% in correct guesses. Amazingly, when the eyes of either the owner or the dog were covered, the results fell to statistically random levels. These results show that our candid resemblances with our canines might be found entirely in the eyes.

While the reasons for why our eyes mirror those of our furry friends remains a mystery (for now), with the hard work of people like Professor Sadahiko Nakjima, we’re learning more and more about the incredible connections we have with our canine companions.