Dog's discrimination of human selfish and generous attitudes: The role of individual recognition, experience, and experimenters' gender

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Abstract

Copyright: ? 2015 Carballo et al.Discrimination of and memory for others' generous and selfish behaviors could be adaptive abilities in social animals. Dogs have seemingly expressed such skills in both direct and indirect interactions with humans. However, recent studies suggest that their capacity may rely on cues other than people's individual characteristics, such as the place where the person stands. Thus, the conditions under which dogs recognize individual humans when solving cooperative tasks still remains unclear. With the aim of contributing to this problem, we made dogs interact with two human experimenters, one generous (pointed towards the food, gave ostensive cues, and allowed the dog to eat it) and the other selfish (pointed towards the food, but ate it before the dog could have it). Then subjects could choose between them (studies 1-3). In study 1, dogs took several training trials to learn the discrimination between the generous and the selfish experimenters when both were of the same gender. In study 2, the discrimination was learned faster when the experimenters were of different gender as evidenced both by dogs ' latencies to approach the bowl in training trials as well as by their choices in preference tests. Nevertheless, dogs did not get confused by gender when the experimenters were changed in between the training and the choice phase in study 3. We conclude that dogs spontaneously used human gender as a cue to discriminate between more and less cooperative experimenters. They also relied on some other personal feature which let them avoid being confused by gender when demonstrators were changed. We discuss these results in terms of dogs' ability to recognize individuals and the potential advantage of this skill for their lives in human environments.

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Carballo, F., Freidin, E., Putrino, N., Shimabukuro, C., Casanave, E., & Bentosela, M. (2015). Dog’s discrimination of human selfish and generous attitudes: The role of individual recognition, experience, and experimenters’ gender. PLoS ONE, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116314

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