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article imageDogs may really understand the human perspective

By Anne Sewell     Feb 11, 2013 in World
Portsmouth - Researchers have discovered that dogs may literally understand the human perspective, because they are more likely to steal food when they think nobody can see them doing it.
All dog lovers know that their pets are intelligent and understand everything they say. Well, it turns out they might actually be right.
Researchers have discovered than if a human tells a dog not to take food, it is apparently four times more likely to disobey the instruction if the lights are then turned off. Yes, that's right, you can't see what the dog is doing, and he knows it, according to psychologists.
The study was conducted using 84 domestic dogs - 42 female and 42 male - chosen only if they were comfortable without their owners in the room, even in complete darkness, and if they were interested in food. But then, which dog is not interested in food?
In each example, the dog was forbidden by a human to take the food. Once the room was dark, it was found that dogs took more food, and more quickly, than they did if the room was lit.
The study was led by Dr. Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth's Department of Psychology. The researchers wanted to find out if dogs had a "flexible understanding" that could show they understood the viewpoint of a human.
Dr. Kaminski said: "What we've revealed is incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can't see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective."
In other words, according to the study, it is "unlikely that the dogs simply forgot that the human was in the room" when the light was turned off. Rather, it appears dogs were able to differentiate between when the human was able or unable to see them.
Dr. Kaminski says the findings, which will be published in the journal Animal Cognition, could also be important in establishing the capacities of dogs, such as guide dogs for the blind and sniffer dogs, who have to interact closely with humans.
Other studies have shown in the past that humans think they can recognize different expressions on a dog's face. However, this is often inaccurate and is merely a projection of human emotions onto our pets.
"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," said Dr. Kaminski.
"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. It has always been assumed only humans had this ability."
However, some of us have always known they are sneaky little devils, and now it has been scientifically proven.
More about Dogs, Human, Perspective, University of Portsmouth, psychology department
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