Dogs, 2-year-olds similar when it comes to understanding unfamiliar gestures

April 7th, 2009 - 3:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 7 (ANI): Adult dogs and 2-year-old kids are similar when it comes to understanding human gestures, according to a new study.

Gabriella Lakatos of Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary, looked at how dogs and young children respond to adult pointing actions.

The researchers showed that three-year-olds rely on the direction of the index finger to locate a hidden object.

However, they found that 2-year-olds and dogs respond instead to the protruding body part, even if the index finger is pointing in the opposite direction.

It has long been believed that in the course of domestication, dogs became predisposed to read human communication signals, including pointing, head turning and gazing.

Also, very often, pet dogs in the family share the social environment of human infants, and therefore there are likely to be similarities in the social stimulation of both young children and dogs.

The researchers carried out two studies where they compared the performance of adult dogs and 2- and 3-year-old children, which is the period of human development during which children and dogs respond in similar ways.

They tried to find out whether dogs and human children are able to generalize from familiar pointing gestures to unfamiliar ones and whether they understand the unfamiliar pointing actions as directional signals.

The authors concluded: “Protruding body parts provide the main cue for deducing directionality for 2-year-old children and dogs. The similar performance of these groups can be explained by parallels in their evolutionary history and their socialization in a human environment.”

These findings have been published online in Springer’s journal Animal Cognition. (ANI)

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