Dog Intelligence and Abstract Reasoning

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(33) "abstract reasoning,Border Collie," }

Imagine this:

You work in a warehouse. You see a worker with his arms full of boxes enter a room. The lights in the room are not on, so the worker uses his elbow to flip the on. If you were to later enter the same dark room (without carrying anything), you would probably turn on the lights by using your hand. Why? Because you would assume the previous worker used his elbow because his arms were full, and because using your hand is your natural, prefered method for manipulating a light switch.

Now, imagine the same worker enters the darkened room without anything in his arms, yet he still uses his elbow to turn on the lights. You might assume there was a for him to do it this way – perhaps there is a chemical or foreign substance on the switch, or something sharp sticking out – and later duplicate his actions when you entered the same room. (Or, you might just think he was nuts 🙂

This demonstrates a level of abstract reasoning previously thought to be reserved for humans and other primates. That’s no longer the case. Our friends can do the same thing!

In a , this exact kind of abstract reasoning was demonstrated in dogs. Here’s how it worked.

A female Border Collie named Guiness was trained to push a lever with her in order to get a treat, rather than using her mouth to do so. She was then observed by two groups of dogs. The first group watched her use her paw to get the treat, but she had a ball in her mouth while doing so. The second group of dogs watched the same demonstration, but this time her mouth was empty.

Guess what? 80% of the first group of dogs used their mouths – their preferred method – to operate the mechanism. They assumed Guiness used her paw because her mouth was “busy”. The second group reversed that with 83% using their paws, assuming that “empty-mouthed” Guiness was demonstrating the “right” way to get the treat. A third group – the control group – who never saw Guiness demonstrate the mechanism, performed as expected with 85% using their mouths the first time.

So, what do we conclude? Simple. Dogs can reason abstractly, and they can adjust their performance accordingly.

Brian Hare, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany states, “What’s surprising and shocking about this is that we thought this sort of imitation was very sophisticated, something seen only in humans. Once again, it ends up, dogs are smarter than scientists thought.”

You May Also Like These Topics...

Dog IQ Tests

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(11) ",Dog," }

Another Look at Dog Intelligence

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(24) "brain size,Colin Groves," }

More On Dog Intelligence

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(26) ",Dog," }

Here’s another take on Dog as reported in this post. is the ability of a dog to learn, think, and solve problems. It can be exhibited in many different ways, and a dog who might not be easy to train might still be very good at figuring out how to open kitchen […]

Dog Intelligence Rankings (Obedience)

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(46) "american staffordshire terrier,," }

Recently we were having a family conversation about which dog breeds were most intelligent. I recalled watching a documentary a few years ago in which dogs were tested using a very simple deductive reasoning test – a large towel was placed over the dog’s head, and the number of seconds it took for the dog […]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Previous Post
Dog Intelligence

Dog IQ Tests

Next Post
Dog News

Chicago Pet Rehab Teaches Old Dogs New Tricks

Leave a Reply