In order to understand the emotions of others, humans typically adopt the perspectives of others. In the animal kingdom, this is a highly debated topic. However, recent research has suggested that dogs may also attribute mental states to others in order to better understand their human counterparts.
Researchers conducted a basic Guesser-Knower study on 16 privately owned dogs all unaware of the fact that testing was taking place. This experiment involved two people: The Knower who is aware of where the food is and the Guesser who is not aware of where the food is. Because the food is in one of four food-smelling containers behind a non-transparent wall, the dogs cannot see where the food is being hidden. This then forces the dog to choose a container based upon the facial expressions of the Knower and the Guesser.
The Knower then points at one container while the Guesser points at another. This forces the dog to be able to identify which person they can trust when deciding which container holds the food.
After conducting the trials, researchers found that approximately 70% of the time, the dogs were guess the correct container. As principle investigator Ludwig Huber stated, these findings signify that dogs can find out what humans or conspecifics can or cannot see.” He also then expressed that “by adopting the positions of humans and following their gazes geometrically, they find out what humans see and, therefore, know – and consequently whom they can trust or not.”
Although this study may not seem particularly important, it furthers studies to prove that dogs are able to adopt the perspectives of humans. As noted by Huber, “the ability to interpret our behaviour and anticipate our intentions, which has obviously developed through a combination of domestication and individual experience, seems to have supported the ability to adopt our perspective,” Ultimately, this skill has most likely aided dogs in navigating our world. And if further research supports the conclusions made by Huber and other researchs, this ability will continue to aid dogs in picking up further human behavioral patterns.
Isabella Drzala ’19
Huber, Ludwig, et al. “Dogs Demonstrate Perspective Taking Based On Geometrical Gaze Following in a Guesser–Knower Task.” Animal Cognition, 24 Mar. 2017, doi:10.1007/s10071-017-1082-x. Accessed 17 Apr. 2017.