Dogs Watching TV & Film: Or Why There is No Canine Roger Ebert

August 28, 2009

Inside_of_a_DogAlexandra Horowitz, assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College has written a new book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs, See, Smell & Know and was interviewed by BARk magazine.  Here she explains why dogs could not see broadcast TV:

“It has to do with how we process light. specialized cells in the eyes of mammals translate light waves into neural activity by changing the pigment in the cells. In the milliseconds that the pigment is changing, the cell can’t receive any more light. This leads to what is called the ‘flicker-fusion’ rate: essentially, the number of snapshots of the world that the eyes can process each second. Our flicker-fusion rate is about 60 images per second. The images on old TVs and film is really a sequence of still shots sent quickly enough to fool our eyes into seeing a continuous stream. Given our flicker-fusion rate, the films needs to be only slightly faster than 60 still images a second to trick our eyes into seeing motion. Dogs, though, have a faster flicker-fusion rate—about 70 or 80 stills per second. When watching film, they can actually detect the individual frames as well as the dark spaces between them. With the recent conversion to entirely digital television broadcasts, thought, the flicker-fusion rate is no longer relevant, since digital TV works differently. So dogs can, in theory, watch TV—though it is still not very olfactorily interesting!”

Please support Professor Horowitz’s outstanding work and buy her book. Also, if you are a dog-lover and you don’t already subscribe to BARk, what are you waiting for?


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