Dogs are Becoming Smarter than Kids

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Thousands of animals were killed at a food festival in China. It outraged the world, even those people that eat every other animal. People flew in and bought dogs in order to save them. Why just dogs? Why not goats, cows, chickens, pigs – all of who have the same intelligence and ability to suffer. Is it because we recognize that dogs are becoming more and more like humans? Researchers from the University of Tokyo and Duke University have found that the same hormone, oxytocin, spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog is gazing at its owner. Oxytocin is known to play a strong role in triggering feelings of unconditional love and protection when parents and children look into each other’s eyes or embrace. The findings suggest that owners love their pets in the same way as family members, and dogs return the affection.

Juvenile characteristics 

Dr Evan MacLean, a senior research scientist at Duke University, said that dogs had learned to ‘hi-jack’ the bonding pathway between parents and their children: “For example when dogs are presented with an impossible task they quickly turn to humans to see what to do, just like children do. Wolves don’t do that. Dogs over time may have taken on more childlike and juvenile characteristics to further embed themselves into our lives.”

As every dog owner knows, canines often grasp the emotional content of what is being said to them. A brain scanning study shows this is scientifically true. Last year, neuroeconomics professor Gregory Burns found – while analysing the canine caudate nucleus in an MRI scanner — a brain region shared by humans and dogs that is associated with the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love, and material things that dogs were as conscious as human children.

Emotional responses 

We know that dogs can understand language, but can they comprehend the underlying emotional tone of what’s being said to them. An experiment conducted by the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, and printed in Current Biology, performed a comparative neurological analysis of humans and dogs. 11 dogs were trained to lie completely still under the MRI scanner. 200 MRI sounds were used to tickle parts of the dogs’ auditory cortex — the part of the brain responsible for processing acoustic information. Various sounds included environmental noises, like car sounds and whistles, human sounds and dog vocalizations. 22 humans were brain scanned as they listened to the same sounds. Analysis of the scans showed that the temporal pole (Brodmann area 38) lit up when both dogs and humans heard human voices.

This part of the brain — previously thought unique to humans — is believed to interpret sounds, giving rise to emotional responses. In humans, this area becomes active when voices are heard. Now it appears that it becomes active in dogs as well. Emotional human sounds, like crying and laughing, activated an area near the primary auditory cortex in both species. Emotionally charged dog vocalizations, such as whimpering or angry barking, caused similar reactions among all volunteers. This could be because dogs and humans, over thousands of years, have been evolving together, and that’s why dogs are capable of processing the emotions embedded in human vocalizations.

Dogs get jealous 

In the growing body of research, that confirms that similarities between dogs and humans are far deeper than previously thought, comes another revelation: Dogs get jealous, just like humans. Researchers of the University of San Diego placed dogs and their owners in a room and asked the owners to focus their attention on objects —a jack-o-lantern, an animatronic dog, and children’s book that played music— instead of their dogs. The researchers found that the real dogs were twice as likely to try and get their owner’s attention when the owner was playing with the toy dog, as opposed to the other two objects (although one snapped at the jack-o-lantern as well).Tactics used by the dogs included everything from nipping at the fake dogs to showing more affection to their owners.

Scientists assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings or an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships. These results show that animals display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.

Anthropologists have identified three main types of social behaviour in humans: “Sociality,” when individuals in a group are more loyal and less aggressive towards one another; “synchronization,” when they follow shared rules and take on one another’s emotions in order to strengthen group solidarity; and “constructive activity,” when they cooperate and communicate in order to accomplish shared goals.

Recognize human faces 

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta claim that dogs can recognize and respond to human faces. In the study published inPeerJ, the researchers said they have identified a specialized part in the dog’s brain where all the visual face recognition takes place. “Our findings show that dogs have an innate way to process faces in their brains, a quality that has previously only been well-documented in humans and primates,” said neurologist Gregory Berns.

Social eavesdropping—or people-watching—is central to human social interactions, since it allows us to figure out who is nice and who is not. According to a study in the journal Animal Behaviour, our dogs listen in too. Scientists tested 54 dogs that watched their owners struggle to retrieve a roll of tape from a container.

In a room, the owner requested help from another person, who held the container. The person turned his back without helping. In all experiments, a third, “neutral” person sat in the room who had his back to the owner and was not asked for help. After the round, the neutral person and the non-helper both offered treats to the dog. Canines most frequently favoured the neutral person’s treat, shunning the non-helper. Scientists have previously observed similar results in human infants and monkeys. Are dogs taking sides by ignoring the people who are mean to their owners?

In 2009, University of British Columbia conducted a major study of all published research in an effort to determine the upper limits of dogs’ mental capacity. Conclusion? They have the cognitive levels of young children. They can count up to four or five, detect basic mathematical errors, develop a vocabulary of roughly 165 words, and remember the location of items they value, deliberately deceive dogs and humans for rewards, and operate simple machinery. Which means, if you have a dog and a small child in the same home, the dog is probably the smarter of the two.

They have the cognitive levels of young children. They can count up to four or five, detect basic mathematical errors, develop a vocabulary of roughly 165 words, and remember the location of items they value, deliberately deceive dogs and humans for rewards, and operate simple machinery. Which means, if you have a dog and a small child in the same home, the dog is probably the smarter of the two.

 

 


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