Generalize or personalize: do dogs transfer an acquired rule to novel situations and persons?

Anne Hertel, Juliane Kaminski, Michael Tomasello

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Abstract

Recent studies have raised the question of whether dogs, like human infants, comprehend an established rule as generalizable, normative knowledge or rather as episodic information, existing only in the immediate situation. In the current study we tested whether dogs disobeyed a prohibition to take a treat (i) in the presence of the communicator of the ban, (ii) after a temporary absence of the communicator, and (iii) in the presence of a novel person. Dogs disobeyed the rule significantly more often when the communicator left the room for a moment or when they were faced with a new person, than when she stayed present in the room. These results indicate that dogs “forget” a rule as soon as the immediate human context becomes disrupted.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere102666
Pages (from-to)e102666
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2014

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