Your own Scooby Doo. Pet dogs can adopt human perspective to find food they can’t see
It is not for nothing that they are called our best friends. Not only can canines interpret human behaviour and intentions, but a new study shows they seem to have developed the ability to adopt our outlook as well.Updated: Apr 08, 2017 16:50 IST
Your dog may be smarter than you think. A new research reveals that canines are also capable of adopting human perspective to correctly interpret cues and find food that they cannot see themselves.
The findings showed that by adopting the position of a human or seeing things from their owner’s point of view and following their gaze, dogs can identify whether a human has an eye on a food source and, therefore, know where the food has been hidden.
“The ability to interpret our behaviour and anticipate our intentions, which has obviously developed through a combination of domestication and individual experience, seems to have supported the ability to adopt our perspective,” said lead investigator Ludwig Huber from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.
Within the first four or five years of life, human beings develop the ability to understand and interpret mental states such as emotions, needs and intentions of their fellow-beings and react accordingly, while this usually does not happen in animals.
In the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers developed a new ‘Guesser looking away’ test, which gave clear evidence of dogs being able to adopt human perspective and take advantage of it.
In the experiment, a person in the middle hid the food and the potential informants were kneeing left and right of this hider.
“To get the food, the dogs have to understand who knows the hiding place (Knower) and who does not and can, therefore, only guess (Guesser).
“They must identify the informant they can rely on if they have to decide for one food container,” Huber noted.
In nearly 70% of the cases, the dogs chose the container indicated by the knower. Being able to adopt the perspective of a human does, however, not require the ability to understand intentions or wishes.
“But the study showed that dogs can find out what humans or conspecifics can or cannot see. By adopting the positions of humans and following their gazes geometrically, they find out what humans see and know – and consequently whom they can trust or not,” Huber said.
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First Published: Apr 08, 2017 16:50 IST