Understanding dog's mind: possibilities and limits. Novel details of a case study
In the last few years a handful of investigations have argued the hypothesis that in the course of adaptation to human environment (domestication), dogs were subjected to behaviour evolutionary changes. Many have assumed, that the shared adaptational demands could result in similar evolutionary changes, and therefore, behaviour analogies in man and dog. We suggest that this approach gives a new possibility to conduct comparative studies aimed to understand human behavioural mechanisms. In the framework of investigations for the evolutionary convergencies between man and dog our research team have been conducting a longitudinal case study on a single dog (Philip) with the aim of getting a more sophisticated insight into the cognitive functioning of the dog's mind. This research in social cognition is interested in how challenges of social living have formed the cognitive structures that control behaviours involved in communication, social learning and social understanding (mind-reading). The paradigmatic element of our experimental approach is that we observe and analyse Philip's behaviour in problem solving tasks embedded in everyday situations while interacting with family members. Although some of the results of this case study have been published earlier (Miklósi, Topál, 2001) here we show further details on Philip's mind-reading abilities. Our experiment was designed to study the dog's ability to recognize knowledge or ignorance in others. The procedure used here was identical to that used in an ape-study (Gomez, Teixidor, 1992) and therefore gives a possibility for the direct dog-ape comparison regarding their performance. Results show that similarly to that found in an 'encultured' orangutan, after few trials Philip was able to adjust his communicative behaviour to the state of knowledge of his human partner and performed successful cooperation in the problem solving task (getting the ball). We should note, however, that the exact mechanism of this sophisticated communicative behaviour is still not cleared up and from a mentalistic viewpoint both low- and high-level explanations (from simple associative learning to fully developed mind-reading) should be considered.
CEJSH db identifier