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Social Interaction with an "Unidentified Moving Object" Elicits A-Not-B Error in Domestic Dogs

By Anna Gergely, Anna B Compton, Ruth C Newberry, Adam Miklosi

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Mechanical “unidentified moving objects” (UMO’s) are useful for controlled investigations into features of social interaction that generate cooperativeness and positive social affiliation in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). We hypothesized that, if a UMO interacted socially with a dog, the UMO would become associated with certain social cues and would subsequently affect dog behaviour. We assigned dogs to a Human, Social UMO or Non-Social UMO partner. In the Human and Social UMO conditions, the partner interacted with the dog cooperatively whereas the Non-Social UMO partner was unresponsive to the dog’s actions. We then tested dogs with their partner in a Piagetian A-not-B error paradigm, predicting that the Human and Social UMO partners would be more likely to elicit A-not-B errors in dogs than the Non-Social UMO partner. Five trials were conducted in which the dog watched its partner hide a ball behind one of two screens (A or B). As predicted, dogs in the Human and Social UMO conditions were more likely to search for the ball behind the A screen during B trials than dogs in the Non-Social UMO condition. These results reveal that the unfamiliar partner’s social responsiveness leads rapidly to accepting information communicated by the partner. This study has generated a better understanding of crucial features of agents that promote dog social behaviour, which will facilitate the programming of robots for various cooperative tasks.



Katie Osborn

Date 2016
Publication Title PLOS ONE
Pages 1-12
ISBN/ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher PLOS
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Dogs
  2. Mammals
  3. Pet ownership
  4. Social Environments
  5. social interactions