Dogs may understand human point of view

Feb. 11, 2013 at 4:09 PM
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PORTSMOUTH, England, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Domestic dogs are more likely to steal food if they think nobody's watching, suggesting they understand a human's point of view, a British researcher says.

Psychologist Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth has demonstrated when a human forbids a dog from taking food, the dog is four times more likely to disobey in a dark room than a lighted one, suggesting they're taking into account what the human can or cannot see.

"That's incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can't see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective," Kaminsky said in a university release Monday.

"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," she said.

"These results suggest 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," said, Kaminsky, who reported her study in the journal Animal Cognition. "It has always been assumed only humans had this ability."

Dogs' understanding may be limited to the here and now, rather than on any higher understanding, she said, suggesting more research is needed to identify what mechanisms are controlling dogs' behavior.

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