Does your dog know what you’re thinking?

2021-09-02

Scientists have long wondered whether dogs know what’s going on inside of our heads—a sophisticated cognitive ability known as theory of mind. A new study adds more evidence that they do. Researchers attempted to pass a treat to a dog through a hole in a screen, and then either “accidentally” dropped it, tried to pass it but the hole was blocked, or intentionally withdrew the treat and said “ha ha!” In the last instance, the canines waited longer to walk around the screen to get the treat—and were more likely to stop wagging their tail—The Guardian reports. The finding indicates dogs can figure out whether we’re doing something on purpose or by accident—and thus have some insight into what we’re thinking, the team argues this week in Scientific Reports. But experts say more evidence is needed to determine whether our canine pals have a true theory of mind—a real understanding of the thoughts and intentions of others.

science.org, 2 September 2021
; https://www.science.org