A study by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna (Current Biology, Summary) has established that even wolves are frustrated when faced with injustice. The novelty highlighted by the research consists in the fact that acting according to fair play is an innate characteristic and not the fruit of domestication occurred over the centuries.

The researchers used some specimens of dogs and wolves to conduct the investigation. During the experiment two animals of each species were placed inside two adjacent cages and were instructed to press a button with a paw that, following a random logic, would have given a reward to both or only to one of the two.

The researchers observed that the unrewarded animal for its work, unlike its partner, refused to continue with the exercise, feeling a strong frustration before the injustice suffered.

dogs, wolves, domestication, sense of justice, frustration, evolution Dogs and wolves show the same frustration after suffering unfair treatment. | Robert Bayer

"For some individuals the response to injustice was unleashed very quickly. One of the wolves stopped working after he had received nothing for the third time, unlike his "colleague", "commented Jennifer Essler, veterinarian, coordinator of the study.

Fair play and evolution. It is known that the role that the sense of justice has played in the evolution of cooperation between human beings. In a nutshell, the basic question is that if one is treated badly, one soon learns not to work with that person anymore.

This trait has also been observed in primates and a 2008 survey had shown that even dogs possess the same sensitivity. The new results show that the sense of injustice is also deeply rooted in wild wolves. The experiment also suggests that this behavior was probably inherited from a common ancestor of dogs and wolves.

The effects of living together. The impact of domestication of dogs is not entirely absent. Dogs, in fact, seem to show less sensitivity to injustice: this seems to be a tolerance developed after centuries of living together with man. According to Jennifer Essler "it is clear that this greater tolerance can be explained both by domestication and by the experience of life with humans, because a difference in behavior was observed even among companion and stray dogs. It seems that having a life experience with humans makes dogs more tolerant of the injustices carried out by the humans themselves against them ".