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Temperament and problem solving in a population of adolescent guide dogs

Abstract

It is often assumed that measures of temperament within individuals are more correlated to one another than to measures of problem solving. However, the exact relationship between temperament and problem-solving tasks remains unclear because large-scale studies have typically focused on each independently. To explore this relationship, we tested 119 prospective adolescent guide dogs on a battery of 11 temperament and problem-solving tasks. We then summarized the data using both confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory principal components analysis. Results of confirmatory analysis revealed that a priori separation of tests as measuring either temperament or problem solving led to weak results, poor model fit, some construct validity, and no predictive validity. In contrast, results of exploratory analysis were best summarized by principal components that mixed temperament and problem-solving traits. These components had both construct and predictive validity (i.e., association with success in the guide dog training program). We conclude that there is complex interplay between tasks of “temperament” and “problem solving” and that the study of both together will be more informative than approaches that consider either in isolation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Perhaps speaking to the inherent difficulty in separating temperament and cognition, impulse control is sometimes grouped in the ‘temperament’ category within the human literature (e.g., Duckworth and Allred 2012), although acknowledged to relate to executive control. However, we adhered to the convention in the animal literature, where it is considered a ‘cognitive’ ability (e.g., Amici et al. 2008; Dettmer et al. 2017; MacLean et al. 2014).

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to S. Bartner, L. Cohen, S. Frommer, M. Ream, and R. Schwartz for dedicating their time and expertise to behavioral testing and video coding. Thanks to Z. Cohen and I. Schamberg for their valuable feedback on drafts. We would also like to thank J. Parker and W. Lundskow from Salimetrics and K. Henning from the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research at Arizona State University for their advice and organization of saliva collection and analysis. We are appreciative of Dr. Dolores Holle for coordinating our work at The Seeing Eye, along with Director of Canine Development Peggy Gibbon and the leadership team of The Seeing Eye. We are also grateful to the training kennel staff for giving us access to their dogs and testing space. Finally, we want to thank the puppy raising families for generously filling out our surveys.

Funding

This work was supported in part by the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychology’s Norman Anderson Graduate Student Fund, a University of Pennsylvania University Research Fund award, the Class of 1971 Robert J. Holtz Endowed Fund for Undergraduate Research, the University of Pennsylvania’s University Scholars program, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to EB (DGE-1321851).

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Correspondence to Emily E. Bray.

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All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

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Bray, E.E., Sammel, M.D., Seyfarth, R.M. et al. Temperament and problem solving in a population of adolescent guide dogs. Anim Cogn 20, 923–939 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-017-1112-8

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Keywords

  • Temperament
  • Cognition
  • Problem solving
  • Behavior
  • Canine
  • Guide dogs