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Intraspecific Motor and Emotional Alignment in Dogs and Wolves: The Basic Building Blocks of Dog–Human Affective Connectedness

1
Ethology Unit, Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Via Volta 6, 56126 Pisa, Italy
2
Natural History Museum, University of Pisa, Via Roma 79, 56011 Calci, Pisa, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(2), 241; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020241
Received: 12 November 2019 / Revised: 4 January 2020 / Accepted: 1 February 2020 / Published: 3 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mutual Recognition of Emotions in the Human-Animal Relationship)
It is now widely accepted that animals may express and perceive emotions. This capacity has an adaptive value because it allows animals to respond to various situations quickly and appropriately thus facilitating their survival and increasing their reproductive success. Through spontaneous mimicry, animals can share their emotional mood and this appears to be particularly fruitful when the relationships are not inhibited by rank rules and when animals build and maintain their bonds through cooperation and social affiliation. Dogs represent a very good model to test hypotheses about the importance of mimicry in regulating emotional sharing because they can be tested at both intra- and inter-specific levels. The intra-specific evidence will help us to understand what the social cognitive potential is at the basis of the evolution of the emotional “intimacy” between dogs and their human companions.
Involuntary synchronization occurs when individuals perform the same motor action patterns during a very short time lapse. This phenomenon serves an important adaptive value for animals permitting them to socially align with group fellows thus increasing integration and fitness benefits. Rapid mimicry (RM) and yawn contagion (YC) are two behavioral processes intermingled in the animal synchronization domain. Several studies demonstrated that RM and YC are socially modulated being more frequently performed by individuals sharing close relationships. This evidence highlights the relation between RM/YC and emotional contagion that is the capacity of two or more individuals to share the same affective state. In this review, we try to delineate a possible developmental trajectory of emotional sharing phenomena by using, as a model species, the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), a valid example of empathic predisposition towards individuals belonging both to the same and the different species. We contrast available findings on RM and YC in dog–dog and dog–human dyads with those in wolf–wolf dyads, in order to investigate if the ability to emotionally engage with conspecifics (wolf–wolf and dog–dog) is evolutionary rooted in canids and if provides the basis for the development of inter-specific emotional sharing (dog–human).
Keywords: motor resonance; facial displays; body signals; synchronization; yawn contagion; relationship quality; play fairness motor resonance; facial displays; body signals; synchronization; yawn contagion; relationship quality; play fairness
MDPI and ACS Style

Palagi, E.; Cordoni, G. Intraspecific Motor and Emotional Alignment in Dogs and Wolves: The Basic Building Blocks of Dog–Human Affective Connectedness. Animals 2020, 10, 241.

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