Navigation Links
What really prompts the dog's 'guilty look'
Date:6/11/2009

Amsterdam, 11 June 2009 - What dog owner has not come home to a broken vase or other valuable items and a guilty-looking dog slouching around the house? By ingeniously setting up conditions where the owner was misinformed as to whether their dog had really committed an offense, Alexandra Horowitz, Assistant Professor from Barnard College in New York, uncovered the origins of the "guilty look" in dogs in the recently published "Canine Behaviour and Cognition" Special Issue of Elsevier's Behavioural Processes (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/behavproc).

Horowitz was able to show that the human tendency to attribute a "guilty look" to a dog was not due to whether the dog was indeed guilty. Instead, people see 'guilt' in a dog's body language when they believe the dog has done something it shouldn't have even if the dog is in fact completely innocent of any offense.

During the study, owners were asked to leave the room after ordering their dogs not to eat a tasty treat. While the owner was away, Horowitz gave some of the dogs this forbidden treat before asking the owners back into the room. In some trials the owners were told that their dog had eaten the forbidden treat; in others, they were told their dog had behaved properly and left the treat alone. What the owners were told, however, often did not correlate with reality.

Whether the dogs' demeanor included elements of the "guilty look" had little to do with whether the dogs had actually eaten the forbidden treat or not. Dogs looked most "guilty" if they were admonished by their owners for eating the treat. In fact, dogs that had been obedient and had not eaten the treat, but were scolded by their (misinformed) owners, looked more "guilty" than those that had, in fact, eaten the treat. Thus the dog's guilty look is a response to the owner's behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any appreciation of its own misdeeds.

This study sheds new light on the natural human tendency to interpret animal behavior in human terms. Anthropomorphisms compare animal behavior to human behavior, and if there is some superficial similarity, then the animal behavior will be interpreted in the same terms as superficially similar human actions. This can include the attribution of higher-order emotions such as guilt or remorse to the animal.

The editor of the special issue, Clive D.L. Wynne of the Department of Psychology, University of Florida, explained, "this is a remarkably powerful demonstration of the need for careful experimental designs if we are to understand the human-dog relationship and not just reify our natural prejudices about animal behavior." He pointed out that dogs are the oldest domesticated species and have a uniquely intimate role in the lives of millions of people. Recent research on dogs has indicated more human-like forms of reasoning about what people know than has been demonstrated even in chimpanzees.


'/>"/>

Contact: Ewa Kittel-Prejs
e.kittel-prejs@elsevier.com
44-778-631-3420
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Disordered amino acids may really be there to provide wiggle room for signaling protein
2. Is it really only our kidneys that control blood pressure?
3. What is really happening to the Greenland icecap?
4. For the birds or for me? Why do conservationists really help wildlife?
5. Hot peppers really do bring the heat
6. Early bird project really gets the worm
7. When is a stem cell not really a stem cell?
8. Lupus gene finding prompts call for more DNA samples
9. A recipe for dog bite injuries: Kids, dogs and warm weather
10. Big cats, wild pigs and short-eared dogs -- oh, my!
11. Pigs and dogs can bridge gap between mice and humans in developing new therapies
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/23/2017)... ITHACA, N.Y. , June 23, 2017  IBM ... in dairy research, today announced a new collaboration using ... the chances that the global milk supply is impacted ... project, Cornell University has become the newest academic institution ... Chain, a food safety initiative that includes IBM Research, ...
(Date:5/6/2017)... -- RAM Group , Singaporean based technology ... biometric authentication based on a novel  quantum-state ... perform biometric authentication. These new sensors are based on a ... Group and its partners. This sensor will have widespread ... security. Ram Group is a next generation sensor ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... 2017 UBM,s Advanced Design and Manufacturing event ... emerging and evolving technology through its 3D Printing and ... alongside the expo portion of the event and feature ... focused on trending topics within 3D printing and smart ... event will take place June 13-15, 2017 at the Jacob ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Proscia ... be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology is going digital. Is your lab ready?” ... pathology adoption best practices and how Proscia improves lab economics and realizes an ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... A ... pregnancy rates in frozen and fresh in vitro fertilization (IVF) transfer ... age to IVF success. , After comparing the results from the fresh and ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... For the ... won a US2020 STEM Mentoring Award. Representatives of the FirstHand program travelled to ... Experience from US2020. , US2020’s mission is to change the trajectory of STEM ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... business process optimization firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a ... in San Francisco. , The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” ...
Breaking Biology Technology: