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Brain regions involved in observing and trying to interpret dog behaviour

By Charlotte Desmet, Alko van der Wiel, Marcel Brass

Category Journal Articles

Humans and dogs have interacted for millennia. As a result, humans (and especially dog owners) sometimes try to interpret dog behaviour. While there is extensive research on the brain regions that are involved in mentalizing about other peoples’ behaviour, surprisingly little is known of whether we use these same brain regions to mentalize about animal behaviour. In this fMRI study we investigate whether brain regions involved in mentalizing about human behaviour are also engaged when observing dog behaviour. Here we show that these brain regions are more engaged when observing dog behaviour that is difficult to interpret compared to dog behaviour that is easy to interpret. Interestingly, these results were not only obtained when participants were instructed to infer reasons for the behaviour but also when they passively viewed the behaviour, indicating that these brain regions are activated by spontaneous mentalizing processes.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2017
Publication Title PLoS One
Volume 12
Issue 9
Pages 14
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0182721
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. Dogs
  4. Eating habits
  5. functional magnetic resonance imaging
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  8. peer-reviewed
  9. Pets and companion animals
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed