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Differential Sensitivity to Human Communication in Dogs, Wolves, and Human Infants

Science  04 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5945, pp. 1269-1272
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176960

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Abstract

Ten-month-old infants persistently search for a hidden object at its initial hiding place even after observing it being hidden at another location. Recent evidence suggests that communicative cues from the experimenter contribute to the emergence of this perseverative search error. We replicated these results with dogs (Canis familiaris), who also commit more search errors in ostensive-communicative (in 75% of the total trials) than in noncommunicative (39%) or nonsocial (17%) hiding contexts. However, comparative investigations suggest that communicative signals serve different functions for dogs and infants, whereas human-reared wolves (Canis lupus) do not show doglike context-dependent differences of search errors. We propose that shared sensitivity to human communicative signals stems from convergent social evolution of the Homo and the Canis genera.

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