What is the “Left Gaze Bias”?

The following is part of my coursework assessment from my ongoing ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology.

Canine Psychology is very intriguing and I would encourage anyone who loves dogs to perhaps consider learning more about it. You’ll begin to understand and appreciate your own dogs better, and they’ll love you all the more for it. The field is very dynamic and fluid, with scientific developments being discovered all the time…okay, it may not be cutting-edge surgical medicine, but it’s still cutting-edge science.

I highly recommend the ISCP’s Diploma Course, which qualifies graduates to call themselves Canine Behaviourists. The ISCP advocates only positive reinforcement techniques. If you can’t commit to the Diploma Course, the ISCP offers stepped courses leading up to it, so you could start with the basics and work your way up to the Diploma. Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, the multi-talented and inspirational founder and Director of the ISCP, is just lovely and very supportive. ❤

Here’s the assessment question, followed by my answer:
What is the left gaze bias, and why do dogs use this?

In human beings, the expression of emotions, coming from the left side of the brain, is displayed first on the right side of our faces. We tend to look towards the right side of someone’s face first, to gauge their mood or emotions. We detect clues subconsciously from someone’s right side of the face, to tell whether they’re happy, sad, angry, etc. This is called the “Left gaze bias”, because, from our viewpoint, we are looking towards the left. The left gaze bias only applies when we are looking at another human being’s face, it does not apply when looking at inanimate objects or animals.

Dogs have somehow learnt to gauge a human being’s emotions by utilising the very same technique of left gaze bias. They only do it to humans, and not to other dogs. When a person goes up to a dog, the dog will first scan the right side of that person’s face, to see if the person is friendly, happy or means to do them harm. Dogs are one up on human beings in that, unlike humans, they do not lose the left gaze bias when shown an upside down face, or photos where the left and right sides of the face have been flipped over.

Dogs are the only animals other than human beings, that practice left gaze bias. This ability has not only made dogs one step ahead of humans in gauging body language and intention simply by looking at the person’s face, it has allowed them to adjust their own behaviour and actions in a split second, to either support a person who’s feeling sad (by placing their paw on the person’s hand or licking their face), or react to a person who intends to harm them (by either fleeing, or becoming defensive aggressive). That’s why when you come home to find your sofa torn to shreds by your dog, the dog can tell just by looking at your face whether you’re going to be upset and yell at him, in which case he’ll try to slink away unnoticed, or if you’re going see the funny side of it, in which case he’ll come bounding to you for pats and cuddles just like he normally does.



The image illustration above was taken from this site below, which also has an interesting video link testing out whether you’re right brained or left-brained:

Incidentally, I’m equally right AND left brained. 😄

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