Another Animal Displays Human Cognitive Abilities

Last Friday I wrote a post about monkeys displaying the ability to reflect on their own thought processes. New Scientist has an article about dogs displaying human-like learning ability:

When dogs learn new tricks, they do not simply copy what they see, but interpret it, suggests a new study, which provides evidence that man’s best friend possesses a human-like ability to understand the goals and intentions of others.

In the experiment, a well-trained Border collie bitch demonstrated to untrained dogs how to pull a lever for food using her paw. If she did this while carrying a toy ball between her teeth, the dogs in her audience would instead tug the lever with their mouths when their turn arrived. These animals appeared to be thinking that she used her paw only because her mouth held a ball, say researchers.

Darwin would be so pleased (I say that because I am in the process of reading The expression of the emotions in man and animals.)
The results of the research are being published in Current Biology.


One Response

  1. I had a Doberman who was superb at reading people’s faces, helped of course by changes in their scent, and who had an extremely expressive face. He would make funny faces at people to make them laugh, win them over, and get them to fuss over him.
    He was a wizard at finding people who were afraid of him. He would then play peekaboo games with them, which would amaze — and disarm them — and soon he would be sitting with them, letting them hug and pet him.
    He also invented games for humans to play with him. Onlookers would generally be dumbstruck, their mouths gaping, while watching a dog with better developed sense of let’s-pretend than most humans have.
    Am I surprised by dog’s reasoning out what someone else is thinking? No. They have, I think, the same social emotions we do, and for the same evolutionary reasons.

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