Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dogs Copy Other Dogs' Actions Selectively, The Way Humans Do

Date:
April 27, 2007
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Humans and dogs are surprisingly similar in the way they imitate the actions of others, according to new research. The phenomenon under investigation is known as "selective imitation" and implies that dogs - like human infants - do not simply copy an action they observe, but adjust the extent to which they imitate to the circumstances of the action.

The phenomenon under investigation is known as "selective imitation" and implies that dogs -- like human infants -- do not simply copy an action they observe, but adjust the extent to which they imitate to the circumstances of the action.
Credit: iStockphoto/David Brimm

A distinguishing feature of human intelligence is our ability to understand the goals and intentions of others. This ability develops gradually during infancy, and the extent to which it is present in other animals is an intriguing question.

New research by Friederike Range and Ludwig Huber, of the University of Vienna, and Zsofia Viranyi, of the Eötvös University in Budapest, reveals striking similarities between humans and dogs in the way they imitate the actions of others. The phenomenon under investigation is known as "selective imitation" and implies that dogs--like human infants--do not simply copy an action they observe, but adjust the extent to which they imitate to the circumstances of the action.

In the study, dogs were faced with the task of opening a container with food by pulling a rod. Whereas dogs prefer to use the mouth for this task, a female dog was trained to open the box with her paw. When the other dogs observed the female's action, they imitated it in order to get the food. However, the dogs imitated selectively. They used their mouths instead of their paws for manipulating the rod when they had seen the demonstrating dog using her paw while holding a ball in her mouth. However, when the demonstrating dog's mouth was free, the dogs imitated her action completely and used the paw themselves.

This means that the way the dogs imitate is tuned to the goal of the action. If the dogs perceive the demonstrator being unable to use her mouth, because she holds a ball in it, they choose the easier, more preferred way to achieve the goal. But when the mouth is free, there appears to be a reason for the demonstrating dog not to use her mouth, and so the dogs imitate the action.

The new work shows for the first time that animals do imitate selectively. This reveals a striking parallel between dogs and human infants in that they do not simply "ape" an action, but only do so if it appears appropriate for the goal. In that sense, dogs seem more similar to us humans than are our biologically closest relatives, the chimpanzees, which will in similar tasks always opt for the more effective way of attaining the goal.

A number of such striking cognitive parallels between humans and dogs have been documented in recent years and are presumably due to the long intimate communicative relationships humans have had with dogs during their domestication.

The researchers include Friederike Range and L Huber of University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria; Zs Viranyi of Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution & Cognition Research in Altenberg, Austria and Eötvös University in Budapest, Hungary.

This work has received research funding from the European Community's Sixth Framework Programme under contract number: NEST 012929. We thank all our dogs and their owners for participating in our experiment.

Range et al.: "Selective imitation in domestic dogs." Publishing in Current Biology 17, May 15, 2007. 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Dogs Copy Other Dogs' Actions Selectively, The Way Humans Do." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070426145103.htm>.
Cell Press. (2007, April 27). Dogs Copy Other Dogs' Actions Selectively, The Way Humans Do. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070426145103.htm
Cell Press. "Dogs Copy Other Dogs' Actions Selectively, The Way Humans Do." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070426145103.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins