Domestic dogs’ (Canis familiaris) choices in reference to information provided by human and artificial hands
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Even young humans show sensitivity to the accuracy and reliability of informants’ reports. Children are selective in soliciting information and in accepting claims. Recent research has also investigated domestic dogs’ (Canis familiaris) sensitivity to agreement among human informants. Such research utilizing a common human pointing gesture to which dogs are sensitive in a food retrieval paradigm suggests that dogs might choose among informants according to the number of points exhibited, rather than the number of individuals indicating a particular location. Here, we further investigated dogs’ use of information from human informants using a stationary pointing gesture, as well as the conditions under which dogs would utilize a stationary point. First, we explored whether the number of points or the number of individuals more strongly influenced dogs’ choices. To this end, dogs encountered a choice situation in which the number of points exhibited toward a particular location and the number of individuals exhibiting those points conflicted. Results indicated that dogs chose in accordance with the number of points exhibited toward a particular location. In a second experiment, we explored the possibility that previously learned associations drove dogs’ responses to the stationary pointing gesture. In this experiment, dogs encountered a choice situation in which artificial hands exhibited a stationary pointing gesture toward or away from choice locations in the absence of humans. Dogs chose the location to which the artificial hand pointed. These results are consistent with the notion that dogs may respond to a human pointing gesture due to their past-learning history.
KeywordsCanine cognition Dog Informant Pointing
We would like to thank Rebecca German, Sabrina Molina, and Meghan Tomlin for their assistance in data collection, coding, and participant recruitment.
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