Animal Cognition

I know what you know

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Science  16 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6343, pp. 1135-1136
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6343.1135-e

Dogs recognize that individuals have distinct perspectives.

PHOTO: GOLDENKB/ISTOCKPHOTO

Theory of mind involves recognizing that others have a distinct perspective. Such an ability is difficult to identify in species that cannot tell you about their thoughts, but research over the past decade or so has shown that it is not unique to humans, being present in at least apes and corvids. Dogs, which coevolved with humans, are excellent at reading our cues but have not been shown experimentally to “read” our minds. Catala et al. tested pet dogs for their ability to recognize when a particular observer has important knowledge through a classic knower-guesser test. They found that dogs followed the gaze of an observer whom they saw witness the hiding of a reward, rather than one who was guessing about its location. Thus, the dogs recognized that the observer knew something they did not, and that it was of value to pay attention to the information conveyed. This recognition of other knowledge is a first step toward a full theory of mind, an ability that would be adaptive across the animal kingdom.

Anim. Cogn. 10.1007/s10071-017-1082-x (2017).

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