Clever hounds: social cognition in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris)

Cooper, Jonathan J. and Ashton, Clare and Bishop, Sarah and West, Rebecca and Mills, Daniel S. and Young, Robert J. (2003) Clever hounds: social cognition in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 81 (3). pp. 229-244. ISSN 0168-1591

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00284-8

Abstract

This paper reviews the reasons why domestic dogs make good models to investigate cognitive processes related to social living and describes experimental approaches that can be adopted to investigate such processes in dogs. Domestic dogs are suitable models for investigating social cognition skills for three broad reasons. First, dogs originated from wolves, social animals that engage in a number of co-operative behaviours, such as hunting and that may have evolved cognitive abilities that help them predict and interpret the actions of other animals. Second, during domestication dogs are likely to have been selected for mental adaptations for their roles in human society such as herding or companionship. Third, domestic dogs live in a human world and “enculturation” may facilitate the development of relevant mental skills in dogs. Studies of social cognition in animals commonly use experimental paradigms originally developed for pre-verbal human infants. Preferential gaze, for example, can be used as a measure of attention or “surprise” in studies using expectancy violation. This approach has been used to demonstrate simple numerical competence in dogs. Dogs also readily use both conspecific and human social signals (e.g. looking or pointing) as information sources to locate hidden rewards such as food or favourite toys. Such abilities make dogs particularly good models for investigating perspective-taking tasks, where animals are required to discriminate between apparently knowledgeable and apparently ignorant informants.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:This paper reviews the reasons why domestic dogs make good models to investigate cognitive processes related to social living and describes experimental approaches that can be adopted to investigate such processes in dogs. Domestic dogs are suitable models for investigating social cognition skills for three broad reasons. First, dogs originated from wolves, social animals that engage in a number of co-operative behaviours, such as hunting and that may have evolved cognitive abilities that help them predict and interpret the actions of other animals. Second, during domestication dogs are likely to have been selected for mental adaptations for their roles in human society such as herding or companionship. Third, domestic dogs live in a human world and “enculturation” may facilitate the development of relevant mental skills in dogs. Studies of social cognition in animals commonly use experimental paradigms originally developed for pre-verbal human infants. Preferential gaze, for example, can be used as a measure of attention or “surprise” in studies using expectancy violation. This approach has been used to demonstrate simple numerical competence in dogs. Dogs also readily use both conspecific and human social signals (e.g. looking or pointing) as information sources to locate hidden rewards such as food or favourite toys. Such abilities make dogs particularly good models for investigating perspective-taking tasks, where animals are required to discriminate between apparently knowledgeable and apparently ignorant informants.
Keywords:Dogs, Animal behaviour, Canis familiaris, Social cognition
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:517
Deposited By: Bev Jones
Deposited On:22 Jun 2007
Last Modified:13 Mar 2013 08:22

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