Individual performance across motoric self-regulation tasks are not correlated for pet dogs
Inhibitory control, the ability to restrain a prepotent but ineffective response in a given context, is thought to be indicative of a species’ cognitive abilities. This ability ranges from “basic” motoric self-regulation to more complex abilities such as self-control. During the current study, we investigated the motoric self-regulatory abilities of 30 pet dogs using four well-established cognitive tasks – the A-not-B Bucket task, the Cylinder task, the Detour task, and the A-not-B Barrier task – administered in a consistent context. One main goal of the study was to determine whether the individual-level performance would correlate across tasks, supporting that these tasks measure similar components of motoric self-regulation. Dogs in our study were quite successful during tasks requiring them to detour around transparent barriers (i.e., the Cylinder and Detour tasks), but were less successful with tasks requiring the production of a new response (i.e., A-not-B Bucket and A-not-B Barrier tasks). However, individual dog performance did not correlate across tasks, suggesting these well-established tasks likely measure different inhibitory control abilities, or are strongly influenced by differential task demands. Our results also suggest other aspects such as perseveration or properties of the apparatus may need to be carefully examined in order to better understand canine motoric self-regulation or inhibitory control more generally.
KeywordsA-not-B tasks Cylinder task Detour task Inhibitory control Motor self-regulation Pet dogs
Support for this study was provided through a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Discovery grant to DMK (#312379-2009). We would very much like to thank the Winnipeg Humane Society for lending us the facilities to perform our experiments. We are thankful to the dogs and the dog owners for their participation in the study, as well as to Miriam Christensen and Meara Stow for their help in data collection.
Compliance with ethical standards
AAAV, LRS, JAM, and DMK designed the study; AAAV, LRS, and JAM conducted the experiments; AAAV, LRS, and DMK analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.
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