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Manwon Lender

After 14,000 Years of Domestication, Dogs Have Some of the Same Cognitive Abilities As Human Babies

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Manwon Lender

This knack for understanding human gestures may seem unremarkable, but it’s a complex cognitive ability that is rare in the animal kingdom. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, can’t do it. And the dogs’ closest relative, the wolf, can’t either, according to a new Duke University-led study published on July 12, 2021, in the journal Current Biology.

More than 14,000 years of hanging out with us has done a curious thing to the minds of dogs. They have what are known as “theory of mind” abilities, or mental skills allowing them to infer what humans are thinking and feeling in some situations.
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The Silver Shroud

Thanks for posting this manwon, a good read! I've noticed with both our dogs, apart from knowing all the "good" things, like us getting ready to go out (and take them with us), they also know when something "bad" is going on. ( If you look or feel sad they make themselves available to comfort you, or if you break something or get angry, they make themselves scarce until things calm down).

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jethrofloyd

Dogs' eyes evolve to appeal to humans

If a dog has eyes that seem to be telling you something or demanding your attention, it could be evolution's way of manipulating your feelings.

Researchers have found that dogs have evolved muscles around their eyes, which allow them to make expressions that particularly appeal to humans. A small facial muscle allows dog eyes to mimic an "infant-like" expression which prompts a "nurturing response".

The study says such "puppy eyes" helped domesticated dogs to bond with humans.

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-48665618

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The Silver Shroud

Actual footage of a dog reacting to  a hoover:

 

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eight bits
Posted (edited)

There's a lot of good recent research in dog cognition. Thanks for posting this timely example.

It's a bit tricky to interpret, though. These are very young canids, and "nature vs nurture" in theory of mind development is complicated to sort out. Many species (including us) improve with age in ToM-revealing behaviors.

Pointing is a human species-specitic gesture, so that in addition to ToM issues there is WTF is that ape doing standing on their hind legs and waving their forelegs around? to get straight first. Among wild animals, adult white tail deer give evidence of readily understanding human pointing + consistent gaze, while adult gray squirrels seem unresponsive (although they do attend to other hand-arm gestures). Both species display considerable ToM suggestive behavior. (Personal experience in the woods, thus anecdotal, so shoot me.)

The wolf pups' aversion to the (abnormally intrusive) ape presence is not evidence of absence of ToM capability. General risk aversion may be a factor here. While I understand the expeimenters' wish to ramp up the contrast between the (small sample) wolf vs. dog groups, they did end up giving the dogs a "normal" mammalian infancy (lots of face tine with Mom; other species scarce at this time), while the wolves were deprived of that and dumped into an "unnatural" potentially stressful infancy ... which may be relevant to slightly later displays of general risk aversion.

Finally, the domestication event of 12 +/- millennia ago remains a mystery. I detected a bit of "crown of creationism" in the article (the notion that since humans were involved, they did all the decisinmaking, while the stupid wolves just wandered into the relationship blindly).. In fact, wild wolves have been observed to form interspecific cooperative arrangements. e.g. with crow parliaments - but not all wolves do that despite the widespread availability of crows as potential allies.

That suggests that a disposition to interspecific cooperation is a trait in its own right, and if so, a trait that varies among wild wolves. Maybe our ancestors hooked up with the shrewdest deal makers among the wolves ... after all, this  cooperation has worked out pretty well for the domesticated wolfkin (and for us, too). It just could be the origins of that arrangement might have been more nearly a pact among equals than some would think.

 

Edited by eight bits
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The Silver Shroud
1 hour ago, eight bits said:

There's a lot of good recent research in dog cognition. Thanks for posting this timely example.

It's a bit tricky to interpret, though. These are very young canids, and "nature vs nurture" in theory of mind development is complicated to sort out. Many species (including us) improve with age in ToM-revealing behaviors.

Pointing is a human species-specitic gesture, so that in addition to ToM issues there is WTF is that ape doing standing on their hind legs and waving their forelegs around? to get straight first. Among wild animals, adult white tail deer give evidence of readily understanding human pointing + consistent gaze, while adult gray squirrels seem unresponsive (although they do attend to other hand-arm gestures). Both species display considerable ToM suggestive behavior. (Personal experience in the woods, thus anecdotal, so shoot me.)

The wolf pups' aversion to the (abnormally intrusive) ape presence is not evidence of absence of ToM capability. General risk aversion may be a factor here. While I understand the expeimenters' wish to ramp up the contrast between the (small sample) wolf vs. dog groups, they did end up giving the dogs a "normal" mammalian infancy (lots of face tine with Mom; other species scarce at this time), while the wolves were deprived of that and dumped into an "unnatural" potentially stressful infancy ... which may be relevant to slightly later displays of general risk aversion.

Finally, the domestication event of 12 +/- millennia ago remains a mystery. I detected a bit of "crown of creationism" in the article (the notion that since humans were involved, they did all the decisinmaking, while the stupid wolves just wandered into the relationship blindly).. In fact, wild wolves have been observed to form interspecific cooperative arrangements. e.g. with crow parliaments - but not all wolves do that despite the widespread availability of crows as potential allies.

That suggests that a disposition to interspecific cooperation is a trait in its own right, and if so, a trait that varies among wild wolves. Maybe our ancestors hooked up with the shrewdest deal makers among the wolves ... after all, this  cooperation has worked out pretty well for the domesticated wolfkin (and for us, too). It just could be the origins of that arrangement might have been more nearly a pact among equals than some would think.

 

I also wondered about the validity of the research. I know the one that showed aid dogs can "sense" an oncoming epileptic fit is very suspect. The thing is we like dogs and so we anthropomorphise them and I think some researchers are not immune to the "enthusiasm  effect".

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third_eye

Some sure can throw up a tantrum worthy of any three year old... 

Quote

 

[00.03:27]

~

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