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Dogs and babies follow similar human gestures

sex and relationships Updated: Apr 07, 2009 20:15 IST
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Dogs and babies, sharing similar social environments, seem to follow human gestures in similar ways, finds a Hungarian study.

Gabriella Lakatos from E's University in Budapest, Hungary, who conducted the study, showed that three-year-olds rely on the direction of the index finger to locate a hidden object.

But two-year-old babies and dogs respond instead to the protruding body part, even if the index finger is pointing in the opposite direction.

Lakatos and her team carried out two studies in which they compared the performance of adult dogs and two and three-year-old children - the period during which children and dogs respond in similar ways.

A total of 15 dogs and 13 two-year-old and 11 three-year-old children took part in the two studies. In the first study, researchers used a combination of finger and elbow pointing gestures to help dogs locate hidden food and children a favourite toy.

They found that dogs choose a direction for the reward on the basis of a body part that protrudes from the experimenter's silhouette, even when the index finger is pointing in a different direction.

Like dogs, two-year-olds did not understand the significance of the pointing index finger when it did not protrude from the silhouette. (In these cases, the elbow protruded in the opposite direction.) However, three-year-olds responded successfully to all gestures.

In the second study, the researchers used unfamiliar pointing gestures with a combination of finger, leg and knee pointing, said an E?s release.

All children and the dogs understood the leg-pointing gestures but only three-year-olds successfully responded to pointing with the knee.

These findings were just published online in Springer's journal Animal Cognition.