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What's the point? Domestic dogs' sensitivity to the accuracy of human informants

Pelgrim, Madeline H., Espinosa, Julia, Tecwyn, Emma ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2343-2282, MacKay Marton, Sarah, Johnston, Angie and Buchsbaum, Daphna (2021) What's the point? Domestic dogs' sensitivity to the accuracy of human informants. Animal cognition, 24 (2). pp. 281-297.

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Dogs excel at understanding human social-communicative gestures like points and can distinguish between human informants who vary in characteristics such as knowledge or familiarity. This study explores if dogs, like human children, can use human social informants’ past accuracy when deciding whom to trust. Experiment 1 tested whether dogs would behave differently in the presence of an accurate (vs. inaccurate) informant. Dogs followed an accurate informant’s point significantly above chance. Further, when presented with an inaccurate point, dogs were more likely to ignore it and choose the correct location. Experiment 2 tested whether dogs could use informant past accuracy to selectively follow the point of the previously accurate informant. In test trials when informants simultaneously pointed at different locations (only one of which contained a treat), dogs chose the accurate informant at chance levels. Experiment 3 controlled for non-social task demands (e.g. understanding of hidden baiting and occlusion events) that may have influenced Experiment 2 performance. In test trials, dogs chose to follow the accurate (vs. inaccurate) informant. This suggests that like children, dogs may be able to use informants’ past accuracy when choosing between information sources.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-021-01493-5
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/7489

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