Psychology Magazine

Dogs Can Know What You Know.

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
Catela et al. offer evidence in dogs for theory of mind ability (recognizing that others have a different perspective, shown for humans, apes, and corvids). They show that dogs prefer to follow the pointing of a human who witnessed a food hiding event over a human who did not, and can distinguish two individuals who are showing identical looking behaviors, only one of which had the opportunity to see where the food was hidden by a third person. This perspective taking ability may occur more widely in the animal kingdom than previously supposed.
Currently, there is still no consensus about whether animals can ascribe mental states (Theory of Mind) to themselves and others. Showing animals can respond to cues that indicate whether another has visual access to a target or not, and that they are able to use this information as a basis for whom to rely on as an informant, is an important step forward in this direction. Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) with human informants are an ideal model, because they show high sensitivity towards human eye contact, they have proven able to assess the attentional state of humans in food-stealing or food-begging contexts, and they follow human gaze behind a barrier when searching for food. With 16 dogs, we not only replicated the main results of Maginnity and Grace (Anim Cogn 17(6):1375–1392, 2014) who recently found that dogs preferred to follow the pointing of a human who witnessed a food hiding event over a human who did not (the Guesser–Knower task), but also extended this finding with a further, critical control for behaviour-reading: two informants showed identical looking behaviour, but due to their different position in the room, only one had the opportunity to see where the food was hidden by a third person. Preference for the Knower in this critical test provides solid evidence for geometrical gaze following and perspective taking in dogs.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Magazines