We humans are instinctively drawn to animals that remind us of infants: creatures with big eyes, large heads and soft features. Because instincts operate automatically, they can be easily hijacked. If you are reading this post, chances are that you too have been a victim of this “act of deceit”.
This is utterly irresistible!!!
Some facial features, particularly around the eyes are very attractive to humans. It turns out that dogs -not wolves- have a specific facial muscle movement around the eyes: the inner eyebrow raise which is linked to an increased social interaction with humans.
Humans consciously or unconsciously preferred (and therefore cared more for) individuals that produced this movement, which led to a selection advantage and manifestation of the trait. What’s even more fascinating is that dogs are more likely to use this “puppy eyes” expression when a human is looking at them, suggesting that it is a deliberate behaviour and intended for human perception!
In fact, a study showed that dogs that produce this facial movement more often were rehomed from a shelter quicker than those that produced the movement less often, suggesting that the production of this eye movement gives dogs a potential selection advantage.
This is definitely an eyebrow raiser!
Another interesting theory about “Puppy Eyes” is related to the white area of the eye. We humans have a preference for other individuals which show the white area of their eyes as it helps us determine gaze direction and tends to improve communication.
It’s feeding tiime, I am hungryyy!
This is evolution’s way of manipulating your feelings! After this research, who’s still naive enough to think that we have “free will”? Yes, I know, I digress...But really, who can resist those “Puppy Eyes”?
Recommended further reading:
Juliane Kaminskia,1, Bridget M. Wallera , Rui Diogob , Adam Hartstone-Rosec , and Anne M. Burrows. Evolution of facial muscle anatomy in dogs.
B. M. Waller et al., Paedomorphic facial expressions give dogs a selective advantage. PLoS One 8, e82686 (2013).
N. L. Segal, A. T. Goetz, A. C. Maldonado, Preferences for visible whitesclera in adults, children and autism spectrum disorder children: Implications of the cooperative eye hypothesis. Evol. Hum. Behav. 37, 35–39 (2016)