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).
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