Dogs’ social-cognitive functioning resembles a 6-month old child
Dogs pick up not only on the words we say but also on our intent to communicate with them, says a report published online in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on January 5.
Dogs’ receptivity to human communication is surprisingly similar to the receptivity of very young children, the researchers say. “Increasing evidence supports the notion that humans and dogs share some social skills, with dogs’ social-cognitive functioning resembling that of a 6-month to 2-year-old child in many respects,” said József Topál of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, author of the study.
Communicative intent cues include verbal addressing and eye contact; those cues appear to work on both humans and dogs. “Our findings reveal that dogs are receptive to human communication in a manner that was previously attributed only to human infants,” Topál says.
Topál’s team presented dogs with video recordings of a person turning toward one of two identical plastic pots while an eye tracker captured information on the dogs’ reactions. In one condition, the person first looked straight at the dog, addressing it in a high-pitched voice with “Hi dog!” In the second condition, the person gave only a low-pitched “Hi dog” while avoiding eye contact.
The data show that the dogs were more likely to follow along and look at the pot when the person first expressed intent to communicate.
Communicative intent cues can help you in many situations, not just with furry friends. Use verbal addressing and eye contact to engage people in what you’re saying!