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Duration of dogs' (Canis familiaris) working memory in search for disappearing objects

Abstract

Two experiments explored the duration of dogs' working memory in an object permanence task: a delay was introduced between the disappearance of a moving object behind a box and the beginning of the search by the animal. In experiment 1, the dogs were tested with retention intervals of 0, 10, 30, and 60 s. Results revealed that the dogs' accuracy declined as a function of the length of the retention interval but remained above chance for each retention interval. In experiment 2, with new subjects, longer retention intervals (0, 30, 60, 120, and 240 s) were presented to the dogs. Results replicated findings from experiment 1 and revealed that the dogs' accuracy remained higher than chance level with delays up to 240 s. In both experiments, the analysis of errors also showed that the dogs searched as a function of the proximity of the target box and were not subject to intertrial proactive interference. In the discussion, we explore different alternatives to explain why dogs' search behaviour for hidden objects decreased as a function of the retention intervals.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by an operating research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and by a research grant from the Faculté des Études Supérieures et de la Recherche (FESR) of Université de Moncton. The experiments received approval from the Comité de protection des animaux from the Faculté des études supérieures et de la recherche de l'Université de Moncton, which is responsible for the application and enforcement of rules of the Canadian Council on Animal Care. We thank the dogs' owners who participated in these experiments.

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Correspondence to Sylvain Fiset.

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Fiset, S., Beaulieu, C. & Landry, F. Duration of dogs' (Canis familiaris) working memory in search for disappearing objects. Anim Cogn 6, 1–10 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-002-0157-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-002-0157-4

Keywords

  • Object permanence
  • Search behaviour
  • Working memory
  • Retention interval
  • Dogs