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Miklosi A.,Eotvos Lorand University | Miklosi A.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group | Topal J.,Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Trends in Cognitive Sciences

The traditional and relatively narrow-focused research on ape-human comparisons has recently been significantly extended by investigations of different clades of animals, including the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Here, we provide a short overview of how the comparative investigation of canine social behaviour advances our understanding of the evolution of social skills and argue that a system-level approach to dog social cognition provides a broader view on the 'human-likeness' of canine social competence. We introduce the concept of evolutionary social competence as a collateral notion of developmental social competence. We argue that such an extended perspective on social competence provides a useful tool for conceptualising wolf-dog differences in socio-cognitive functioning, as well as for considering specific social skills not in isolation, but as a part of a system. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Sumegi Z.,Eotvos Lorand University | Gacsi M.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group | Topal J.,Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Applied Animal Behaviour Science

In humans, placebo effect can be produced by giving verbal information and also by conditioning when, after repeated administration of an active substance, an inactive compound that just looks like the drug administered before, can produce the effect of the active substance. Conditioned placebo effect has been reported in rodents, however, the dog (Canis familiaris) may also provide a promising model species. In our study dogs' behaviour was observed while they were repeatedly separated from their owners in the same unfamiliar room. First, subjects did not receive any pre-treatment (Baseline trial), then they participated in either of two different conditioning contexts: after having received either sedative drug (Conditioned group) or non-sedating vitamin (Control group) treatment, subjects participated in 3 conditioning trials on consecutive days. Finally, in the 'Test trial', both groups were separated from their owners after receiving placebo (non-sedating vitamin). Results show significant effect of the sedative drug conditioning; when comparing the change from Baseline to Test trials in the Conditioned and the Control groups, conditioned subjects showed less active signs of distress (U(26)=48, p=0.021) and more passive behaviours (U(26)=50, p=0.027). We also investigated the association between dogs' susceptibility to conditioned placebo effect and their expectancy bias towards positive outcomes and found a positive correlation (r(12)=0.697, p=0.008), suggesting that dogs with more positive expectations are more responsive to placebo treatment. Considering previous human findings about stronger responsiveness to placebo in optimistic people, our results support the validity of the application of a dog model towards a better understanding of some aspects of the placebo phenomena in humans. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. Source

Farago T.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group
Biology letters

Humans excel at assessing conspecific emotional valence and intensity, based solely on non-verbal vocal bursts that are also common in other mammals. It is not known, however, whether human listeners rely on similar acoustic cues to assess emotional content in conspecific and heterospecific vocalizations, and which acoustical parameters affect their performance. Here, for the first time, we directly compared the emotional valence and intensity perception of dog and human non-verbal vocalizations. We revealed similar relationships between acoustic features and emotional valence and intensity ratings of human and dog vocalizations: those with shorter call lengths were rated as more positive, whereas those with a higher pitch were rated as more intense. Our findings demonstrate that humans rate conspecific emotional vocalizations along basic acoustic rules, and that they apply similar rules when processing dog vocal expressions. This suggests that humans may utilize similar mental mechanisms for recognizing human and heterospecific vocal emotions. Source

Gacsi M.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group | Maros K.,Szent Istvan University | Sernkvist S.,Eotvos Lorand University | Farago T.,Eotvos Lorand University | Miklosi A.,Eotvos Lorand University

The secure base and safe haven effects of the attachment figure are central features of the human attachment theory. Recently, conclusive evidence for human analogue attachment behaviours in dogs has been provided, however, the owner's security-providing role in danger has not been directly supported. We investigated the relationship between the behavioural and cardiac response in dogs (N = 30) while being approached by a threatening stranger in separation vs. in the presence of the owner, presented in a balanced order. Non-invasive telemetric measures of heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) data during the threatening approaches was compared to periods before and after the encounters. Dogs that showed distress vocalisation during separation (N = 18) and that growled or barked at the stranger during the threatening approach (N = 17) were defined as behaviourally reactive in the given situation. While characteristic stress vocalisations were emitted during separations, the absence of the owner did not have an effect on dogs' mean HR, but significantly increased the HRV. The threatening approach increased dogs' mean HR, with a parallel decrease in the HRV, particularly in dogs that were behaviourally reactive to the encounter. Importantly, the HR increase was significantly less pronounced when dogs faced the stranger in the presence of the owner. Moreover, the test order, whether the dog encountered the stranger first with or without its owner, also proved important: HR increase associated with the encounter in separation seemed to be attenuated in dogs that faced the stranger first in the presence of their owner. We provided evidence for human analogue safe haven effect of the owner in a potentially dangerous situation. Similarly to parents of infants, owners can provide a buffer against stress in dogs, which can even reduce the effect of a subsequent encounter with the same threatening stimuli later when the owner is not present. © 2013 Gácsi et al. Source

Fugazza C.,Eotvos Lorand University | Miklosi A.,Eotvos Lorand University | Miklosi A.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group
Animal Cognition

This study demonstrates for the first time deferred imitation of novel actions in dogs (Canis familiaris) with retention intervals of 1.5 min and memory of familiar actions with intervals ranging from 0.40 to 10 min. Eight dogs were trained using the 'Do as I do' method to match their own behaviour to actions displayed by a human demonstrator. They were then trained to wait for a short interval to elapse before they were allowed to show the previously demonstrated action. The dogs were then tested for memory of the demonstrated behaviour in various conditions, also with the so-called two-action procedure and in a control condition without demonstration. Dogs were typically able to reproduce familiar actions after intervals as long as 10 min, even if distracted by different activities during the retention interval and were able to match their behaviour to the demonstration of a novel action after a delay of 1 min. In the two-action procedure, dogs were typically able to imitate the novel demonstrated behaviour after retention intervals of 1.5 min. The ability to encode and recall an action after a delay implies that facilitative processes cannot exhaustively explain the observed behavioural similarity and that dogs' imitative abilities are rather based on an enduring mental representation of the demonstration. Furthermore, the ability to imitate a novel action after a delay without previous practice suggests presence of declarative memory in dogs. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Source

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