Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wolves v. dogs

Wolves outperform dogs in following human social cues

Not as popular as pirates v. ninjas, but interesting nonetheless. Previous studies had indicated that dogs could interpret a human gesture better than wolves can, raising the possibility that millenia of domestication might have selected for better social cognition in dogs. This would be at odds with prevailing opinion, which suggests that domestication dulls the wits.

The present experiments suggest that the previous results may have been skewed by experimental bias, mainly by favoring dogs who had longer and more intimate experience with humans. The authors found some wolves that were also habituated to humans and discovered they do somewhat better than dogs. Just as suggestive, it turns out that pet dogs do pretty well at figuring out when a person is pointing at something, but dogs raised in animal shelters do not. Experience seems to count for a lot when it comes to understanding people.

1 comment:

James Hanley said...

Domestication certainly dulled my dog's wits. But at least, unlike a wolf, he's too smal to eat the girls.