Dogs' Behave Similar to Human Infants
The folks that say they'd rather have a dog than a baby might want to take note. It appears that the two really aren't that dissimilar. A recent study by the Hungarian Academy of Science tested whether dogs were able to respond to human communicative signals just as human infants are capable of doing.
According to researcher Jozef Topal of the Academy, "Increasing evidence supports the notion that humans and dogs share some social skills, with dogs' social-cognitive functioning resembling that of a six-month to two-year-old child."
The team set out to determine if canines exhibited some of the same social skills as human infants. An infant's gaze following can be triggered only if an actor's head turn is preceded by an expression of communicative intent. The team researched to determine if a dog's gaze following could be triggered in the same way.
Dogs were shown video presentations of a human actor turning toward one of two objects and their eye-gaze patterns were recorded with an eye tracker. The results show that dogs were more likely to follow the human gaze if it was preceded by a direct gaze at the animal or addressing the animal rather than if those techniques were not used. Researchers had people gaze directly at the dog and say "Hi dog" in a high pitched tone and then turn their gaze toward one of two objects. Other people did not gaze at the dog and lowered their pitch when addressing the dog. The dogs who were addressed directly and communicated with in a high pitched manner, as one addresses an infant responded with eye gaze following while the others did not.
Topal reported that the group's findings indicate that "dogs are receptive to human communication in a manner that was previously attributed only to human infants."
While anyone with a dog wouldn't be surprised by the research findings, the team believes that its findings will help indicate what dogs are actually thinking. The use of the new eye tracking technology may have far reaching future implications to animal and human alike.