The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "Dogs do not use their own experience with novel barriers to infer others’ visual access"

Posted on 2024-05-14 - 09:46
Despite extensive research into Theory of Mind abilities in nonhuman animals, it still remains controversial whether they can attribute mental states to other individuals or whether they merely predict future behaviour based on previous behavioural cues. In the present study we tested pet dogs (in total, N=92) on adaptations of the “goggles test” previously used with human infants and great apes. In both a cooperative and a competitive task, dogs were given direct experience with the properties of novel screens (one opaque, the other transparent) inserted into identical, but differently coloured, tunnels. Dogs learned and remembered the properties of the screens even when, later on, these were no longer directly visible to them. Nevertheless, they were not more likely to follow the experimenter’s gaze to a target object when the experimenter could see it through the transparent screen. Further, they did not prefer to steal a forbidden treat first in a location obstructed from the experimenter’s view by the opaque screen. Therefore, dogs did not show perspective-taking abilities in this study in which the only available cue to infer others’ visual access consisted of the subjects’ own previous experience with novel visual barriers. We conclude that the behaviour of our dogs, unlike that of infants and apes in previous studies, does not show evidence of experience projection abilities.


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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences


Lucrezia Lonardo
Martina Putnik
Veronika Szewczak
Ludwig Huber
Christoph J. Völter


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