Chimps may share more of our genes, but dogs have lived with us for so long — in our houses, on our beds (and, of course, sneaking out for late night poker games) — they may evolved into a better model for understanding human social behavior, according to a new study.
In terms of cooperation, attachment to people, their ability to imitate and their understanding of human communication (verbally and non-verbally) dogs have become not just man’s best friend, but, socially, his closest counterpart in the animal kingdom, according to a paper accepted for publication in the journal Advances in the Study of Behavior.
They might even be thinking more like us, too. the Discovery Channel’s Jennifer Viegas reports.
Researchers believe adapting to the same living conditions may have resulted in the similarities. “That shared environment has led to the emergence of functionally shared behavioral features in dogs and humans and, in some cases, functionally analogous underlying cognitive skills” lead author Jozsef Topal explained to Discovery News.
(Digression: While I couldn’t agree more with that — to the extent I understand it — I don’t agree with what Topal says it should lead to: dogs serving as the “new chimpanzees” in psychological studies. In fact, I’m not much on the chimps being used, either, or poor college students, at least when such experimentation gets into using drugs, scalpels and electrical implements. )
The study by Topal and his team at the Institute for Psychology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences found that dogs kept as pets can be regarded in many respects as “infants in canine clothing,” and that many dog-owner relationships mirror human parental bonds with children.
In one of many recent studies conducted by the team, Topal and his colleagues taught both a 16-month-old human child and mature dogs to repeat multiple demonstrated actions on verbal command — “Do it!,” shouted in Hungarian.
The actions included turning around in circles, vocalizing, jumping up, jumping over a horizontal rod, putting an object into a container, carrying an object to the owner or parent, according to the study.
While I don’t find that all that amazing, it is fascinating to think about how dogs, the longer they live with humans and the closer our relationships become, might continue to evolve in the household. I’m guessing there are already some homes that tune into TV shows they think the dog will like. How much longer until the dog controls the remote?
Posted by John Woestendiek March 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adapting, behavior, chimps, closer, discovery, dogs, evolution, human, humanization, humans, hungarian academy of sciences, jozsef topal, laboratory, model, paper, psychology, science, shared, social, study