Domestic Dogs’ Sensitivity to the Accuracy of Human Informants

AbstractDomestic dogs excel at understanding human social-communicative gestures. The present study explores whether dogs can use people’s past accuracy when deciding who to trust. In Experiment 1, dogs watched an informant hide a treat under one of two containers and then point at one of them. Dogs were more likely to follow an accurate (pointed correctly) vs. the inaccurate (pointed incorrectly) informant’s point. In Experiment 2, dogs interacted separately with an accurate and inaccurate informant and again were more likely to follow an accurate point. In test trials, dogs did not witness hiding of the treat and saw the same two informants simultaneously point at different locations. Here, they chose between the locations at chance-level. Dogs’ inability to selectively follow a previously accurate informant when presented with conflicting information suggests that, unlike children, they may not be able to use past informant accuracy when choosing whose information to use.

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