, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 181-192
Date: 21 Aug 2008

Social attention in keas, dogs, and human children

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Abstract

Understanding animals’ abilities to cooperate with and learn from each other has been an active field of research in recent years. One important basis for all types of social interactions is the disposition of animals to pay attention to each other—a factor often neglected in discussions and experiments. Since attention differs between species as well as between individuals, it is likely to influence the amount and type of information different species and/or observers may extract from conspecifics in any given situation. Here, we carried out a standardized comparative study on attention towards a model demonstrating food-related behavior in keas, dogs and children. In a series of experimental sessions, individuals watched different conspecific models while searching, manipulating and feeding. Visual access to the demonstration was provided by two observation holes, which allowed us to determine exactly how often and for how long observers watched the model. We found profound differences in the factors that influence attention within as well as between the tested species. This study suggests that attention should be incorporated as an important variable when testing species in social situations.