2005-04-14

On authority and inhibition

There is an interesting little summary in the Chronicle of Higher Education on research by Vilmos Csányi and his associates regarding the cognitive abilities of dogs, and how their relationships with humans influence them.

"... in scientific circles, animal-cognition studies have largely ignored dogs, focusing instead on closer human relatives, like chimpanzees and gorillas. Dogs, as a result, have not been considered very brainy.

[....]

That never sat well with Mr. Csányi who, like many in dog-loving Hungary, had dogs of his own. Dogs, he suspected, were simply more inhibited than their wild cousins, requiring permission from their masters before doing something as rash as opening a gate, which they may have regarded as a violation of their master's rules. So eight years ago, he and his colleagues conducted a problem-solving experiment of their own. With their masters present, 28 dogs of various ages, breeds, and levels of training had to figure out how to pull on handles of plastic dishes to obtain meat on the other side of a wire fence. Regardless of other factors, the dogs with the strongest relationship with their owner scored worst, continually looking to their owners for permission or assistance. The best results came from outdoor dogs, who obtained the food, on average, in one-third the time. Most telling, when owners were allowed to give their dogs permission, the gap between indoor and outdoor dogs vanished."


Also, the article includes some provocative theses on the differences between dogs and wolves, and which is more likely to jump into your lap.

3 comments:

Yakima_Gulag said...

I LOVE the Chronical of Higher Education, it's a pity it's such an expensive publication. Sometimes I see one lying around in the English department and steal it! hehe

Eric Gordy said...

The Chronicle is nice, but I do miss Lingua Franca sometimes, it was a bit dishier and cheekier.

Rich Byrne said...

Hey, man! We're cheekier now than ever! Thanks for the link!