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November 22, 2018 Thursday 04:34:34 PM IST

Even dogs seem to know when they don't know!

Teacher Insights

Researchers at Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have shown that dogs possess so-called metacognitive abilities, for example, to know when they do not know!

 

Dogs are aware of when they do not have enough information to solve a problem and are found to actively seek more information. The results are published in the journal Learning & Behavior.

 


Researchers at the Dog Studies lab at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have shown that dogs possess some "metacognitive" abilities -- specifically, they are aware of when they do not have enough information to solve a problem and will actively seek more information, similarly to primates.

 

To investigate this, researchers created a test in which dogs had to find a reward -- a toy or food -- behind one of two fences. They found that the dogs looked for additional information significantly more often when they had not seen where the reward was hidden.

Metacognitive abilities -- sometimes described as the ability to "know what one knows" -- and in particular whether they are aware of what information they have learned and whether they need more information. The results did not allow the researchers to say definitively whether dogs possess metacognition, although they displayed some evidence for it.


"For humans, vision is an important information gathering sense. In this case our experiment was based on a 'checking' action relying on sight -- but the dogs probably also used their sense of smell when checking through the gap. We know that smell is very important for dogs and we could see that they were using it," states Bräuer, one of the researchers on the theme. "In future, we would like to develop an experiment investigating under what circumstances dogs decide to use their sense of smell versus sight. This may give us additional insights into their information seeking abilities."

Source: DOI: 10.3758/s13420-018-0367-5


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