Dogs influenced by owner's expression of preference

In this news, we discuss the Dogs influenced by owner's expression of preference.

Dogs are sensitive to their owners’ choices even though they prefer to pick up their favorite toy when it’s handy, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) investigated whether dog behaviors were driven by displays of human preferences or by the animals’ own choices.

They found that dogs’ gaze time, but not search behavior, was influenced by the owner’s expression of preference. Although studies have not shown that dogs outweigh their own preferences for an object, the results suggest that the preference expressed by owners was perceived by dogs and guided their perceptual focus.

Animal cognition studies deepen our understanding of the evolution of the human mind and help inform policy makers in the development of livestock legislation. The question of whether dogs have any idea that their humans have their own thoughts and emotions is one of the hot topics in dog research.

One of these goals has been to study how dogs respond to expressions signaling human preferences.

The new study published in Frontiers in Psychology follows on from earlier efforts in this direction.

“18-month-olds recognize that their own preference may differ from that of others and they understand how desire can be inferred from emotional expressions, but 14-month-olds do not. We wanted to test where the dogs fit on this scale, ”said Eniko Kubinyi, lead author of the study and lead researcher at Eötvös Loránd University.

The researchers first tested a subset of dogs for their spontaneous preference for a dog toy or bracelet. The toy was without exception the most desirable object. Then the owners displayed cheerful expressions towards the bracelet and made disgusted faces towards the toy. Then the owner asked the dog to go look for it, without providing any further guiding clues. All of the dogs went to pick up the toy, indicating that their own choice was not overwhelmed by the owner’s emotional expressions. “Thus, either the dogs are not able to distinguish between their preference and that of the owners, or they have failed to inhibit the ‘wrong’ response,” explained Flóra Szánthó, co-author.

The researchers decided to dig deeper. “Going for a search was clearly not a good choice for measuring dogs’ sensitivity to other people’s preferences for several reasons,” Kubinyi noted.

“Since their own favorite item was close at hand, there was little incentive for dogs to factor owner’s choice into their responses. We hypothesized that if the same objects were out of reach, they would stimulate what appears to be “demonstration” behavior in dogs and they would direct more attention to the choice of their owners, thus also weakening the affordance provided by their favorite object.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers decided to place the objects on the lab window sill where the dogs couldn’t reach them.

Fifty-one dogs were assigned to one of two experimental groups: a matched / congruent condition where the owners displayed cheerful expressions towards the toy and made disgusted faces towards the bracelet, and a mismatched / incongruous condition, where the owners showed happiness towards the bracelet and disgust towards the toy. After the emotions were displayed, the toy and bracelet were placed out of reach, and researchers have now measured how long the dogs have looked at each object.

“In this case,” said Ivaylo Iotchev, Eötvös Loránd University post-doctoral fellow and co-author, “the dogs looked at the favorite toy while their owner had previously responded with a happy face. group, they looked at the bracelet and the toy during the same period.

The demonstration of owner preference affected dog behavior. “It is not certain that this influence is the result of inferred and shared representations,” Kubinyi said.

“We did not find conclusive evidence that dogs, much like one-and-a-half-year-old toddlers, understand the subjectivity of desire – different people may have different attitudes towards the same object.

“If they do infer owner preference, they might not understand retrieval as an act of offering an object to a human, or inhibiting the response, an important aspect of cognitive control, was not enough. strong to crush the animal’s own preference, ”Kubinyi told me.

News Highlights:

Dogs influenced by owner’s preferred expression

Dogs sensitive to owners’ choice despite their own preferences

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