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Dogs proven to engage in moral evaluation of people and animals by observing their behavior


(NaturalNews) A Yale study is shining new light on the complexity of the canine mind. In more ways than one, man's best friend is trying to communicate with his master. Dogs not only observe human behavior but seem to engage in a moral evaluation of the people nearest them.

Yale Researchers have put hundreds of dogs to the test in new cognitive interactive studies that investigate just how the canine's mind's function.

Laurie Santos, director of the Yale Canine Cognition Center, says that hundreds of dogs were placed in front of puppet shows that would typically evoke an emotional response. The dogs responded to the puppets' actions in interesting ways that point to their ability to morally evaluate.

"Dogs are just fascinating," Santos said. "We love them, they live in our homes. Anyone who hangs out with a dog is kind of wondering, 'what are they thinking, do they love me'."

Dogs dislike bully-like activity

Some tests proved that dogs do show empathetic love in certain situations. In one puppet show cognitive test, each dog watched as a rat puppet helped a hedgehog puppet up a hill. During another test, dogs watched as that same rat puppet knocked the hedgehog puppet back down the hill.

"Similar studies have been done with human infants, and what we find is that infants don't like the guy who was mean," Santos said. "So, we're doing the same thing with dogs to try and see if dogs morally evaluate, the way humans do."

Just like infants, most canines in the study became wary of the rat puppet who knocked the hedgehog puppet down the hill.

Dogs become wary of thieves, mischievous activity

In another test, the dogs were placed in front of a companion sitting and reading a book. When the companion sat the book down on the floor behind their chair, a stranger was allowed into the room to take the book.

"What we really want to see is whether or not dogs know when we've missed some information," Santos said. "Do they realize that, first of all, and when they do realize it, are they motivated to help?"

The common theme that the canine's shared was their ability to recognize that something was wrong when a stranger came in to take the book. Furthermore, the dogs seemed to take their care to another level. Most attempted to alert their companions that something was wrong. The dogs' ability to not only pay attention but also to recognize that something is wrong indicates that they can morally evaluate people in the room they are in.

Dogs care about what their companion values

In a third test, Yale researchers allowed a dog and their companion in a room. While the two are relaxing, a researcher walks in and introduces a new object to both. Researchers attempted to see whether the dog would become interested in the same item as their companion. Most of the dogs studied did take a liking to the new object along with their companion.

"The most surprising thing so far is how many of our intuitions about dogs are right," Yale junior Rebecca Spaulding said. "That dogs have feelings and dogs want to communicate with us."

Sources for this article include:


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