Your Dog Is Just as Smart as Your Toddler: Study
Anyone who has ever taken care of dogs and little children will recognize a lot of the one's qualities in the other. Scientists concur. In a new study published in the journal Animal Behaviour, a team of researchers revealed that dogs and two-year-old humans share similarities in social intelligence and cooperative communication skills.
According to a report from Eurekalert, University of Arizona's Evan MacLean and his team performed cognitive skills tests on 552 dogs, then compared it to the results of similar tests done on 105 two-year-old children and 106 chimpanzees. They discovered that chimps did well on activities that tested their physical environment and spatial reasoning, but fell short on those that focused on cooperative communication skills.
In those tests, dogs and children outperformed the chimps while displaying similar patterns of variation in performance. Basic social skills that humans develop at around nine months old are also found in dogs, MacLean pointed out.
"The bigger, deeper question we wanted to explore is if that really is a superficial similarity or if there is a distinct kind of social intelligence that we see in both species," he explained. "What we found is that there's this pattern, where dogs who are good at one of these social things tend to be good at lots of the related social things, and that's the same thing you find in kids, but you don't find it in chimpanzees."
Scientists suggested that these similarities may be due to humans evolution conditions are similar to dogs' evolution and domestication process, which favored the "survival of the friendliest" where cooperative social behavior reaped benefits.
"Our working hypothesis is that dogs and humans probably evolved some of these skills as a result of similar evolutionary processes, so probably some things that happened in human evolution were very similar to processes that happened in dog domestication," MacLean said. "So, potentially, by studying dogs and domestication we can learn something about human evolution."
Human disabilities involving social skills -- like autism -- could potentially be better understood with the findings of this research.