Saturday 16 December 2017

Dogs have a human-like sense of morality, new research suggests

Dogs have a human-like sense of morality and are able to perceive if someone is acting dishonestly or unfairly.
Dogs have a human-like sense of morality and are able to perceive if someone is acting dishonestly or unfairly.
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

Dogs have the ability to work out when someone is being rude or dishonest, according to a new study into the morality of man’s best friends.

Researchers in Japan’s Kyoto University suggest that dogs have a human-like sense of morality and are able to perceive if someone is acting dishonestly or unfairly.

The research involved experiments in which dogs watched their owners come into the room with a stranger, each of them holding three balls. In one experiment, the dog’s owner asked the stranger to give them their balls and they obliged. In another experiment, the stranger was less obliging and did not give the dog’s owner their balls.

These experiments were carried out a number of times as the dog watched. At the end of the experiments both the obliging stranger and the stranger who did not share each offered the dog a treat.

The research found that the dog was less likely to take a treat from the stranger they had perceived to have been selfish during the exchange with their owner.

The Japanese study also found that capuchin monkeys have a similar judge of character and are able to make social judgements on people based on their behaviours.

James R. Anderson, who led the study said: "Studies have shown that infants react negatively to agents who display harmful intentions toward others, and to those who behave unfairly. We describe experimental studies of capuchin monkeys’ and pet dogs’ differential reactions to people who are helpful or unhelpful in third-party contexts.”

"We conclude by proposing some questions for studies of nonhuman species’ third party-based social evaluations."

Meanwhile, a recent study suggested that along with being able to sniff out our selfish friends, they also might be able to pick up on the negative tone of their voice.

A new study has shown that dogs use the left hemisphere of their brain to process the meaning of words, and their right side to work out the intonation – exactly the same way human’s process language.

It means that dogs can pick up when people are not being consistent in their language and tone.

"We humans love talking to dogs, we call them by names, praise them, scold them but quite little is known about how dogs interpret out words,” said lead researcher Dr Attila Andics of Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary.

"Many people would propose dogs might care about how we intonate but what we say might not be so important to them. We decided to look into the brain. We trained the dogs to lie motionless. We let them listen to their trainer’s speech. Dogs sometimes heard praise words and other occasions they hear praise words in a non-praising intonation. We tested for brain regions that respond different for words.

"The results showed something very interesting. Dogs do care about what we say and how we say it, and the mechanism is very similar to that of humans. Dogs can also tell apart word meaning and word intonation."

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