Most other animals, including our closest primate relatives, don't really care much about us. And when they look at us, it's pretty much the same as when they look at regular stuff in their environment. We're just not that important.
But unlike those other animals, when a dog looks at your face, multiple areas in her brain "light up." If a dog looks at other things or animals, not so much. It turns out that looking at you is a big deal, and a dog devotes a lot of brain space to this.
How did people figure this out?
Scientists trained dogs to sit still in an MRI. Then, while scanning the dogs, the scientists projected a wide range of pictures on a screen in front of the dogs. Most pictures are just processed in the dog's occipital cortex, the area where most vision is processed.
But show a dog a person's face, and multiple parts of their brains sit up and pay attention.
|Is this dog dedicated to helping science or what?|
If you want an abridged version of the study, try this article: Dog Perception of Human Faces
If you want all of the involved and fascinating scientific details, here's the link: Full Study of Dogs and Human Faces.