Dogs understand human perspective, say researchers

Recently a study was done on dogs to see if they had a "flexible understanding" that could show they understood the viewpoint of a human. The study that was published in Animal Cognition, had conducted tests on 84 dogs. Dr. Juliane Kaminski,from the University of Portsmouth's psychology department, headed up the research on how dogs are influenced by human circumstances.

The researchers had been trying to find whether dogs could adapt their behavior in response to the changed circumstances of their human owners. What they found was that dogs are more capable of understanding situations from a human's point of view than has previously been recognized.

The researchers found that dogs were four times more likely to steal forbidden food when the lights were turned off so humans in the room could not see. What this suggested was that the dogs were able to alter their behavior when they knew their owners' perspective of the situation had changed.

The researchers say it is "unlikely that the dogs simply forgot that the human was in the room" when there was no light. Instead it seems as though the dogs were able to differentiate between when the human was unable or able to see them.

In order to avoid false associations, such as the dogs beginning to associate sudden darkness with someone giving them food, the researchers designed the experiments with plenty of variations.

Dr. Kaminski, said the study was "incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can't see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective." This could also be important in understanding the capacities of dogs that have to interact closely with humans, such as guide dogs for the blind and sniffer dogs.

In previous studies it had been suggested that although humans might think that they can recognise different expressions on their dogs' faces, this is often inaccurate and a projection of human emotions. According to Dr. Kaminski, "Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things. We know that our own dog is clever or sensitive, but that's us thinking, not them."

"These results suggest that humans might be right, where dogs are concerned, but we still can't be completely sure if the results mean dogs have a truly flexible understanding of the mind and others' minds. It has always been assumed only humans had this ability."

Responses to "Can dogs understand from a human's point of view? "

  1. Anonymous says:

    Duh. Dogs are smarter and more compassionate than most people. No study necessary.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love animals, sometimes more than people...I especially love dogs..They have consciousness, mental telepathy, compassion etc..

  3. Anonymous says:

    I know when my dogs smileing and its not me puting my human emotions on her, she only does it when she has something to smile about!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    this explains why little Terrier Mix goes food searching and then cuddles up in my bed (where he is no allowed) as soon as I get into the shower!!

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