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Dogs will Ignore Your Lousy Advice -Research Reveals

‘Although dogs are highly social animals, they draw the line at copying irrelevant actions,’ said Angie Johnston, Yale Ph.D. student and lead author on the study.

‘Dogs are surprisingly human-like in their ability to learn from social cues, such as pointing, so we were surprised to find that dogs ignored the human demonstrator and learned how to solve the puzzle on their own.’

Lauri Santos, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale and senior author on this study, and her team used 40 pet dogs of different breeds to understand if dogs can decipher good advice from bad advice, reports The Science of Us.

A treat was placed inside a clear puzzle box with a red lid and dogs were told to retrieve after observing a researcher demonstrate how to open the box.

Attached to the side was a plastic dog toy in the shape of a stick and although it was not functionally relevant for solving the puzzle, the human moved it around as if it did.

To solve this puzzle, the dog simply had to lift the red lid, but researchers add extra actions with the lever in order to see how the dogs would respond.

After leaving the room and letting the dogs figure solve the puzzle on their own, the team found that after a rounds with the puzzle box each dog learned that the lever was not needed to access the treat inside.

Used 40 pet dogs of different breeds to understand if dogs can decipher good advice from bad adviceA treat was placed inside a clear puzzle box (pictured) with a red lid and dogs were told to retrieve after observing a researcher demonstrate how to open the box

Used 40 pet dogs of different breeds to understand if dogs can decipher good advice from bad adviceA treat was placed inside a clear puzzle box (pictured) with a red lid and dogs were told to retrieve after observing a researcher demonstrate how to open the box

Attached to the side was a plastic dog toy (pictured) in the shape of a stick and although it was not functionally relevant for solving the puzzle, the human moved it around as if it did

Attached to the side was a plastic dog toy (pictured) in the shape of a stick and although it was not functionally relevant for solving the puzzle, the human moved it around as if it did

These findings suggest that animals were learning how to solve the puzzle through individual experience, rather than overimitating the actions of the demonstrator.

‘One reason we’re so excited about these results is that they highlight a unique aspect of human learning,’ said Johnston.

After leaving the room and letting the dogs figure solve the puzzle on their own, the team found that after a rounds with the puzzle box each dog learned that the lever was not needed to access the treat inside

After leaving the room and letting the dogs figure solve the puzzle on their own, the team found that after a rounds with the puzzle box each dog learned that the lever was not needed to access the treat inside

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‘Although the tendency to copy irrelevant actions may seem silly at first, it becomes less silly when you consider all the important, but seemingly irrelevant, actions that children are successfully able to learn, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth.’

Santos and her colleagues built their work from a study conducted in 2005 by Dr. Frank Keil, which observed a demonstrator solve a puzzle box by first moving a lever and then lifting a lid to pull out a prize.

Santos and her colleagues built their work from a study conducted in 2005 by Dr. Frank Keil, which observed a demonstrator solve a puzzle box by first moving a lever and then lifting a lid to pull out a prize

Santos and her colleagues built their work from a study conducted in 2005 by Dr. Frank Keil, which observed a demonstrator solve a puzzle box by first moving a lever and then lifting a lid to pull out a prize

The team believes this pattern of results suggests that overimitation may be a unique feature of human social learning. However, children generally limit their time solving a task because they have so many different things to learn

The team believes this pattern of results suggests that overimitation may be a unique feature of human social learning. However, children generally limit their time solving a task because they have so many different things to learn

‘Humans often fall prey to the bad advice of others’ said Santos.

‘Children tend to copy all of a teacher’s actions, regardless of whether they are necessary or not.’

DOGS UNDERSTAND WHAT WE SAY AND HOW WE SAY IT

A recent study found dogs, like people, use the left hemisphere to process words, and the right hemisphere brain region to process intonation.

It found praise activates dog’s reward center only when both words and intonation match, according to the new study in Science.

Researchers also say dogs developed the neural mechanisms to process words much earlier than thought.

Andics and colleagues also found that praise activated dogs’ reward center – the brain region which responds to all sorts of pleasurable stimuli, like food, sex, being petted, or even nice music in humans.

 Importantly, the reward center was active only when dogs heard praise words in praising intonation.

The Hungarian research group shows the capability is not unique to the human brain, the researchers say.

It shows that if an environment is rich in speech, as is the case of family dogs, word meaning representations can arise in the brain, even in a non-primate mammal that is not able to speak.

Although the lever was completely irrelevant for solving the puzzle, just as it was during the study with the dogs, children repeatedly performed both actions, even when they were in a race to solve the puzzle as quickly as possible.

The team believes this pattern of results suggests that overimitation may be a unique feature of human social learning.

However, children generally limit their time solving a task because they have so many different things to learn.

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Written by Bello Olusayo

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