Monthly Archives: May 2019

Dogs recognise human and dog emotions, research shows

Dogs take a swim in Botany Bay. Photo: Nic Walker New research has shown that dogs use vocal and facial cues to understand human emotions. Photo: iStock

Dog owners worldwide have long suspected that their canine companions can understand how they’re feeling.

And now science has thrown us a bone.

New research has shown that pet dogs use visual and auditory cues simultaneously to understand humans’ and dogs’ emotions.

This ability to understand emotion through facial and vocal expressions was previously only known in humans.

In the study, conducted by researchers in Britain and Brazil, 17 family pet dogs were shown images of a happy and an angry face at the same time, while a single voice recording was played.

The recordings were either dog barks or a human voice speaking an unfamiliar language, and had either a positive or negative tone.

The researchers found that the dogs looked “significantly longer” at the image with the corresponding emotional tone, and showed a “clear preference” for the matching face in 67 per cent of the trials.

However, the dogs responded more clearly to the dog stimuli than the human stimuli.

This ability may be a “particularly advantageous” tool for a social species such as dogs and indicates a “high-level” cognitive power, according to the study.

Dogs may have developed this ability to form closer friendship with their owners, the study suggested.

“The ability to recognise emotions through visual and auditory cues … might have been developed for the establishment and maintenance of long-term relationships with humans,” the study reported.

“It is possible that during domestication, such features could have been retained and potentially selected for, albeit unconsciously.”

There have been ongoing debates among researchers as to whether dogs can interpret human emotions, with previous research indicating dogs could understand human facial expressions.

However, this was the first study to find that pet dogs also listen to your tone of voice to understand how you are feeling.

The findings were published in the journal Biology Letters.

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Parties note opposition to seat changes

DECISIONS: Hunter Labor MPs Joel Fitzgibbon, Jill Hall and Pat Conroy.BOTH major parties have objected to the proposed redistribution of federal seats in the Hunter.

In October the Australian Electoral Commission announced its long-awaited proposal for adjustmentsto electorates in NSW.

A final decision on the proposal could come as early as this week, but both parties have expressed their opposition to the plan, with Labor saying the nameCharlton should not be abolished, and the Liberal Party arguing the changes would unnecessarily split up a number of local council areas including Cessnock and Port Stephens.

In its submission Labor said the seat of Paterson should be re-named Hunter, and the seat of Lyne re-named Paterson.

Theproposal included sweeping changes to seats in the Hunter. Itessentially abolishedJoel Fitzgibbon’s seatand re-named Charlton, Pat Conroy’s seat, Hunter.

While the decision is not final, it has setoff a domino effect in the region as politicians scramble to secure their futures.

Mr Fitzgibbon is understood to want to remain in whichever seat covers Cessnock. Under the redistribution proposal thatwould be the new seat of Hunter.For that to happen, sitting Charlton MP Pat Conroy would have to be willing to make way.

While members have remained tight-lipped about their intentions, other media reports have speculatedthat Jill Hall in Shortland may choose to retire, allowing Mr Conroy to move to that seat.

Complicating the issue,a number of other candidates, including Lake Macquarie councillor Chad Griffith, a localbranch member and staffer for Ms Hall, as well asNSW Labor assistant secretary John Graham, arealso understood to have shown interest in Shortland.

The seat of Paterson, held by Liberal Party member Bob Baldwin, isnow a notionally Labor seat with a 1.3 per cent margin.He has previously dismissed suggestionshe mayretire after he wasdemoted as a parliamentary secretary to the environment when Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott.


HEAVYWEIGHT prop Sam Mataora hopes Newcastle Knights fans will be seeing a lot less of him this season.

Nine kilograms less, to be precise.

In preparation for the NRL’sinterchange reductionthisseason from 10 to eight, Mataora was advised to shed weight.

Working closely with Knights nutritionistRachelSvenson,Mataora has downsizedfrom 117kgto 108kg.

“There’s only eight interchanges next year, so I’ve got to be a lot fitter and more agile,’’ Mataora told the Newcastle Herald.“The coaching staff gave me some goals atthe start of pre-season, and I’ve been able to drop someweight.Now I just have to maintain it.’’

Mataora said his new-found dietary disciplinewas initially“a bit of an adjustment”but he had gradually embraced it.

“It’s justknowing what foods to eat at the right time,’’ he said. “Less takeaway, more cooking at home.That’s pretty much it. I’m feeling heaps better for it.

“It’s become a routine. At first I was struggling, but I’m used to it now. It feels like normal now.’’

Even over the Christmas-New Year break, the 25-year-old did not allow his resolve to weaken.

“I followed the program they gave us.I just kept ticking the boxes, every day,’’ he said.

The Cook Islands international hopes his new slim-line physique will allow him to nail down a regular first-grade position, having made nine appearances last season, all off the bench.

“In 2014, I didn’t play a game in the NRL, so I was pretty gutted,’’ he said.

“Just to get my foot back in the door last year was awesome, and this year I’m looking to build on it.I just have to prove myself in the trials, and if I get a spot for round one, that would be good.’’

Mataora appeared a rising star when he made his NRL debut for Canberra in 2010as a 19-year-old.

He played another 32 games for the Raiders in the next threeseasons, but after the arrival of new coach Ricky Stuart he found himself on the outer.

In an interview 12 months ago, he admitted he was “wasting my time inCanberra”, which prompted to accept a lifeline from the Knights midway through 2014.At the end of that season, he re-signed with Newcastle for three more years, knocking back an offerto followmaster coach Wayne Bennett to Brisbane.

SHAPING UP: Knights prop Sam Mata’ora. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Keep that sunscreen handy

HEATWAVE: Weather experts predict the heatwave in parts of the Hunter on Thursday.If you think Tuesdaywas warm wait until Thursday when the mercury in the Hunter heads northwards.

Maitland is tipped to nudge a toasty 41 degrees but there’s respite in Newcastle where the mercury is expected to hit 32.

The bureau has advised Hunter ­residents to have a heat wave action plan in place.

People should stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and hot or sugary drinks, limit physical activity and try to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.

The forecast conditions have also prompted NSW Ambulance to issue warnings relating to swimming pools and general water safety.

NSW Ambulance education director Alan Morrison said with temperatures set to rise this means more drowning or near drowning incidents as people flock to the beach, pools, lakes and creeks.

Mr Morrison said there was never a time to be complacent when children and water were involved.

“It only takes a moment for a child to get themselves into trouble around water, so it is vital they are supervised vigilantly at all times,” he said.

Don White of Weatherwatch said Hunter residents had been spoilt with below average temperatures the week before Christmas and then a few moderately warm days over the festive season before the rain events and cooler conditions of last week.

“It has definitely warmed up this week and the hottest day looks to be Thursday at this stage, with the low 40s forecast,” Mr White said.

“We will be back into the mid-to-low 20s on Friday with a few showers.”

Mr White said the Hunter could also expect possible thundery showers on Thursday.

Corporations pay the price for unethical behaviour

We saw some significant failures in corporate ethics in 2015. Rising expectations of corporate conduct have put how companies do business firmly in the spotlight.

One notable scandal of 2015 was Volkswagen admitting to installing emission-test evading software in its diesel cars. The far-reaching fallout affected other carmakers and resulted in the resignation of VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn (pictured).

Australia wasn’t without home-grown scandals: 7-Eleven faced revelations of worker exploitation; supply chains were found to be subject to corporate abuse; and a series of ethical boycott campaigns of major brands would have dulled the recent festivities in some offices.

Are corporations increasingly being held to account? Fundamentally, has anything changed? The market continues to be geared primarily to reward profits and increasing revenues, and these remain at the heart of incentive structures, but it is rare today to find executives openly following the Gordon Gekko “greed is good” guide for business.

Importantly, the way a company is valued today is largely based on intangible assets. Boards, management and investors are also increasingly aware of the importance of such assets as drivers of growth, such as the ability to attract and retain good staff, corporate reputation, innovation, brand awareness, consumer trust and loyalty.

So, are companies becoming more sustainable and ethical? The short answer is yes. But, with some notable exceptions from the banking sector, Australian companies have been slow to seize the opportunities of sustainability and ethical leadership.

Research shows Australians are traditionally among the world’s most ethically active with 57 per cent of Australians refusing to buy from a company they do not trust.

Jill Riseley is the founder and managing director of advisory firm Meliora Group