We may not be able to understand it. But the latest research suggests that dogs - among them - seem to recognize and understand the degree of distraction.
|So do you finish distracting yourself and go back to play? According to a US researcher the dogs would have a certain predisposition to understand if their playmates think of something else.|
At the moment, however, there is no scientific evidence to support this thesis. But new research, conducted by one of the leading animal cognition experts, Alexandra Horowitz, seems to suggest that dogs have at least a rudimentary version of the so-called "theory of mind", a capacity of the mind to understand that other people have beliefs, interests, intentions and thoughts different from ours.
Elite club. Although this ability is crucial in social development and in relationships with others, so far it has been found only in humans and - to some extent - even in chimpanzees. For example, a recent research, dwelling on the perception that monkeys have of their mirror image, has come to the conclusion that our "cousins" do not recognize their image but at least realize that it is not a real monkey.
Per game. Horowitz studied the behavior of dogs during the game. In particular he observed the way in which dogs attract the attention of their distracted companions: when in fact two dogs are playing and one is distracted, the other uses one or more stratagems - barks, small bites or taps - to regain the caution. The degree of these calls depends on the level of distraction. According to Horowitz, dogs would therefore be able to recognize and understand the degree of distraction of other playmates and would therefore have a rudimentary theory of mind.
The hypothesis - fascinating for dog lovers and not - should however be tested in other situations.
(News updated August 11, 2005)