Can Pigeons Read Human Faces?

Can pigeons really read human faces?  

Exception Magazine and new research from the University of Iowa suggests that pigeons, those pesky birds that poop all over your car and the park, can actually detect emotions in the form of nonverbal communication, which are our facial expressions.

Graduate student, Fabian Soto commented, “The asymmetry has been found many times in experiments with people and it has always been interpreted as the result of the unique organization of the human face processing system.  We have provided the first evidence suggesting that this effect can arise from perceptual processes present in other vertebrates”

Pigeons were the obvious choice for the study because they have very good eyesight, and they are not closely related to humans on the evolutionary spectrum.

The researchers for the study showed pigeons photographs of human faces that varied in identity as well as in their emotional expression, such as a frown or a smile.  Pigeons, like humans, were found to perceive the similarity among faces sharing identity and emotion. In a second experiment pigeons found it easier to ignore emotion when they recognized face identity than to ignore identity when they recognized face emotion.

It makes sense because pigeons have had to rely on human wastefulness to survive the growing encroachment on their territory.  They virtually live beside us, why wouldn’t they evolve to read our faces?

What do you think?  Can pigeons really read human’s facial expressions?

Take a look at the video below of Dr. Matsumoto’s comments on facial expressions of emotion as signs of motivation.  Could this also pertain to animals?

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