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Multimodal signaling in the visuo-acoustic mismatch paradigm: similarities between dogs and children in the communicative approach


In this review, we have analyzed the studies on the “mismatch paradigm” or “contrasting paradigm”, in which the word indicates an intent that is opposite to the gesture in dogs and children. The studies on children highlighted the importance of the type of gestural messages that, when delivered in a non-ostensive manner, assume less value than the verbal indication; whereas, when more emphasis is given to the gestures, it produces opposite results. Word-trained dogs appear to rely more on words, but in the absence of such specific training, dogs rely more on gestures either in transitive or intransitive actions. Moreover, gestural communication appears easier to generalize, since dogs respond equally well to the gestural messages of familiar persons and strangers, whereas their performance lowers when a stranger provides a vocal message. Visual signals trigger faster responses than auditory signals, whereas verbal indications can at most equal the gestural latencies, but never overcome them. Female dogs appeared to be more proficient in the interpretation of gestural commands, while males performed better in the case of verbal commands. Based on a PRISMA analyses from the Web of Science database, three papers on children and four on dogs were retrieved. Our analyses revealed that gestures are more reliable reference points than words for dogs and children. Future studies should focus on choices related to objects of different values for the subjects. Moreover, the choices of dogs should be compared using known and unknown objects, which might help clarify how familiarity with the objects could differently influence their responses.

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BD, AS and ADC conceived and designed the review; AS, BF, and CP sourced the publications; BD’ wrote the draft and all authors contributed in improving the text. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Biagio D’Aniello.

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Scandurra, A., Pinelli, C., Fierro, B. et al. Multimodal signaling in the visuo-acoustic mismatch paradigm: similarities between dogs and children in the communicative approach. Anim Cogn 23, 833–841 (2020).

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  • Contrasting paradigm
  • Dog behavior
  • Human gestures
  • Mismatch paradigm
  • Words