Animal Cognition

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 427–434

Do domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) perceive the Delboeuf illusion?

  • Maria Elena Miletto Petrazzini
  • Angelo Bisazza
  • Christian Agrillo
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-016-1066-2

Cite this article as:
Miletto Petrazzini, M.E., Bisazza, A. & Agrillo, C. Anim Cogn (2017) 20: 427. doi:10.1007/s10071-016-1066-2


In the last decade, visual illusions have been repeatedly used as a tool to compare visual perception among species. Several studies have investigated whether non-human primates perceive visual illusions in a human-like fashion, but little attention has been paid to other mammals, and sensitivity to visual illusions has been never investigated in the dog. Here, we studied whether domestic dogs perceive the Delboeuf illusion. In human and non-human primates, this illusion creates a misperception of item size as a function of its surrounding context. To examine this effect in dogs, we adapted the spontaneous preference paradigm recently used with chimpanzees. Subjects were presented with two plates containing food. In control trials, two different amounts of food were presented in two identical plates. In this circumstance, dogs were expected to select the larger amount. In test trials, equal food portion sizes were presented in two plates differing in size: if dogs perceived the illusion as primates do, they were expected to select the amount of food presented in the smaller plate. Dogs significantly discriminated the two alternatives in control trials, whereas their performance did not differ from chance in test trials with the illusory pattern. The fact that dogs do not seem to be susceptible to the Delboeuf illusion suggests a potential discontinuity in the perceptual biases affecting size judgments between primates and dogs.


Visual illusions Comparative perception Canine Quantity discrimination 

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
"FIRB 2013" from "Ministero dell’Istruzione, Università e Ricerca (MIUR, Italy)"
"PRIN 2015" from "Ministero dell'Istruzione, Università e Ricerca (MIUR, Italy)"
  • 2015FFATB7

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Elena Miletto Petrazzini
    • 1
  • Angelo Bisazza
    • 1
  • Christian Agrillo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of General PsychologyUniversity of PadovaPaduaItaly

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