How Smart Is Your Dog?

Do you have a dog?

Then you might be interested in a Yale University study that has shown that dogs are so smart, they will ignore your bad directions.

In the study, a treat was placed inside a puzzle.  Solving the puzzle involved one step — lifting the lid — but the researchers added one unnecessary step, pushing a lever on the box that did nothing.   Then they left the room.  In a couple of rounds, the dogs started ignoring the lever and going straight to lifting the lid.26-dogs-ignoring-directions-w710-h473-2x

So what?  This study was based on a 2005 experiment with children.  Although the kids were given a more complicated puzzle, they tended to repeat the demonstrators’ actions step for step, apparently without thinking the task could be simplified. The study’s authors called this “overimitation”.  They wrote:  “This pattern of results suggests that overimitation may be a unique feature of human social learning,” possibly because by uncritically copying what they see, “children generally limit the amount of time they need to spend learning through repeated trial and error.”

The implications are that children are willing to learn how to do certain tasks, like brushing their teeth, without understanding why; they can learn the reasons later.  But dogs will think more for themselves.

So give dogs credit.  In their own way, they may be better at problem-solving than we are.

Read about this study at  http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/09/yale-study-shows-dogs-are-too-smart-to-follow-bad-advice.html? .  The photo comes from that website.

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