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When Owners Look Like Their Dogs, and Vice Versa


We’ve all seen it; an owner walks by with their pet and the resemblance is striking — sometimes even comically so. How is it possible? Are people drawn to dogs that look like them? The phenomenon has been researched for years. Here’s what scientists have found…

When playing a matching game, studies show that participants can pair images of owners and their pups with a higher-than-chance success rate. Research suggests that the Law of Attraction might be at play here — humans simply seem like the familiar (also known as the mere exposure effect), and will therefore be more likely to bring home a dog that bares resemblance to themselves.

Japanese psychologist Sadahiko Nakajima, who has spent years studying the phenomenon, wanted to know more. In a study he conducted with over 500 undergraduate students, he had participants “choose the set of dog-owner pairs that physically resemble each other.” And then, taking it a step further, he included images that blocked sections of both the dog and the human’s face — first the mouth, then the eyes, then everything but the eyes. His findings were fascinating: when only the eye region were visible, nearly 76% of the participants were still able to make correct matches — that’s without seeing any other features.

So is it all in the eyes? The results, Nakajima concuded, “clearly show that individuals make decisions on dog-owner resemblance primarily by comparing features of the eye region between dogs and owners.”

Interestingly enough, studies have also shown that our pets experience a boost of oxytocin, or the “love hormone” in a similar way that we do. Could it be a meeting of eyes, a love at first sight? We’d like to think so.


Why You Look Like Your Dog, The Atlantic

People Really Do Look Like Their Dogs, Huffington Post

What Makes People Look Like Their Pets? Slate

Photo via Cesar.