We all have had the feeling our dogs are possibly psychic aliens put on this earth to make life better. Oh, it that just me? Well, you may not think they are otherworldly but you have probably thought your dog was reading your mind once or twice, right? Well, studies suggest that dogs in fact, probably can.
Thanks to a study from the Animal Cognition Journal “theory of mind” is real and dogs have it too. You may be asking what is “theory of mind?” It’s basically the skill human beings have that allow us to perceive mental states in other humans. Basically it’s how we understand others beliefs, desires, knowledge and perspectives. Guess what? Dogs can do that too.
In the study, researchers tested the dogs with treats. The dogs observed 3 different humans doing 3 different types of actions. The first person hid dog food in several different containers. The second person named the “Knower” watched the person hiding the food. The third person, the “guesser” looked away. A screen prevented the dog from seeing which container the food was placed in leading the dog to guess itself.
Once the screen was removed, the “Knower” and the “Guesser” both pointed to different containers. The dogs had to differentiate whom to trust.
“This means that the tested dogs, in order to get the food, had to judge who is the Knower by adopting the informants’ perspectives and following their gazes,” lead study author Ludwig Huber, a biologist at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna, explained in a statement.
And around 70 percent of the time, the dogs did just what Huber outlined: They understood which of the humans had seen the food being hidden, and used that secondhand knowledge strategically, picking the more informed of the two humans to lead them to it — a finding the researchers described as “solid evidence for geometrical gaze-following and perspective-taking in dogs.”
“The ability to interpret our behavior and anticipate our intentions, which has obviously developed through a combination of domestication and individual experience, seems to have supported the ability to adopt our perspective,” Huber said.
“Altogether, the findings of the present study provide evidence that canines are able to react to what others can or cannot see. This ability seems to be based on the use of occurrent gaze cues in a cooperative situation and is thus at a lower level of representation than a full-blown competence of attributing the concept ‘seeing,’ Buckner said.
The bottom line is, dogs really do understand humans. You thought they were special before? Well, think again because our dogs are very aware, perceptive living creatures. Honestly, some dogs are smarter and more intuitive than most humans I know. That’s the sad truth, too. So, our dogs may not be completely psychic but they definitely know when you’re up to something. So the next time you try sneaking around your dog, good luck because they already know why you’re doing it and where you’re headed. What’s next? Science proving dogs are smarter than humans? Probably.