An global team of scientists shows that goats presented with pictures of human faces are more interested in a happy face than an angry face.
Overall, the goats preferred to interact first with the happy faces.
The study's author, Alan Mcelligott reported that the ability to recognize the mood and character of a person may be the result of domestication and maintenance in zoos.
Researchers in the United Kingdom borrowed goats from a local sanctuary to better understand how well they can understand human cues. Indeed, the trial including sets of smiling and frowning faces, when done on horses, has demonstrated that horses physiologically respond to photographs of angry human faces with elevated pulses and different indications of stress.
Interestingly, their preference for happy faces was most obvious when the positive images were put on the right side of the test area.
"In addition, facial expressions are also prevalent in non-human animals and the question of whether and how animals perceive emotional facial expressions is of major interest to understand their underlying ultimate functions and origin".
During the study, which was carried out at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent, England, researchers showed 20 goats grey-scale pairs of unfamiliar human faces, exhibiting happy or angry emotions.
This suggested that goats use the left hemisphere of their brains to process positive emotion, said the team from Queen Mary, University of London.
"We tested the goats with photographs, black and white photographs, either a woman or a man with an angry face or a happy face", McElligott said. This, the researchers note, makes sense from an adaptive perspective, since horses and dogs have been domesticated as human companions.
"However, to date, there was no evidence that animals such as goats were capable of reading human facial expressions".
The study builds on the field exploring the inner lives of domesticated animals.
So the next time you see a goat, why not turn that frown upside down?