The research showed that dogs react differently to people who told them a lie without realizing it than they did to a person who knowingly lied to them. These results show signs that dogs might have a “theory of mind” that they use to understand their owner’s behavior. This is something that children usually develop around four years old.
Senior author Ludwig Huber, the head of the Comparative Cognition unit at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna, and lead author Lucrezia Lonardo, a doctoral student at the Messerli Research Institute, wrote in a joint email to Live Science, “Although every dog owner thinks that their dog ‘understands’ them, such a sophisticated level of reasoning about the mental states of others had never been scientifically shown in dogs.’’
An experiment was done with 260 dogs where they were put through a simple test where they were lied to. The experiment was designed to be similar to studies done on human children and great apes.
The results were tested to see how much the dog’s behavior was affected by what the person was communicating to them. The evidence showed that more dogs responded when they were told the truth rather than a lie. These results indicated that the dogs know when they were lied to and made their decisions accordingly. However, there is still not enough evidence for this theory to be conclusive.
It is still widely unknown why dogs make the decisions that they do and just how much human communication has to do with it. However, these results provide an interesting peek into a dog’s mind.
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