Do dogs have a theory of mind? Essential Tips

As the authors state, even the limited task success of the wolves suggests that domestication is not necessary for dogs’ social-cognitive skills. But domestication may still be sufficient, with normal social exposure (which the shelter dogs may not receive). A strong case against domestication could be made only if the test were done with very young dogs—when they have the visual acuity and cognitive stamina to be tested, but before they are socialized into human lifestyles.

Why test for theory of mind in nonhuman animals? Conceptually, the interest is comparative: Do any animals behave in a way that suggests that they are, like humans, aware that other creatures have minds just as they do? Experimentally, research looks for evidence that an animal can predict the behavior of others (Premack & Woodruff, 1978) or can attribute mental states, particularly desire or knowledge, to others (Carruthers & Smith, 1996; Heyes, 1998).

Perhaps the salient difference between dogs and wolves is the specificity of considering the human. In particular, dogs are more predisposed than nondomesticated canids to be interested in humans, to look at humans, and to note the details of humans (including our eyes). Notably, researchers who work with hand-raised wolves have reported that the wolves use eye contact differently than does the average dog. They are more likely than wild wolves to make eye contact with (familiar) humans. But like most wolves, they appear to be more susceptible to view sustained eye contact as threatening than pet dogs are (Patricia Goodman, personal communication).

In line with other research, Udell, Dorey, and Wynne’s (in press) finding that dogs and wolves pass on some trials of a putative theory-of-mind test and fail on others is as informative about the methods and concepts of the research as about the subjects. This commentary expands on these points. The intertrial differences in the target article demonstrate how critical the choice of cues is in experimental design; the intersubject-group differences demonstrate how life histories can interact with experimental design. Even the best-designed theory-of-mind tests have intractable logical problems. Finally, these and previous research results call for the introduction of an intermediate stage of ability, a rudimentary theory of mind, to describe subjects’ performance.

Ultimately, the mixed performance observed across trials, in the target article and in previous studies, suggests that the syllogism that underlies the experimental design should be reconsidered. If a test is a true test of theory of mind, the subject who can pass one trial (such as book) should pass a related trial (such as bucket), and performance should be 100%. But even the highest-performing subjects never pass on every trial, which is what we would expect for subjects with a theory of mind.

“It made more sense to consolidate teams under one leader (instead of two) for example,” Irwin said in an emailed response to a request for comment.

Workers on teams handling the social network’s misinformation policy, global appeals and state media on the platform were also eliminated.

Twitter faces multiple suits over unpaid bills, including for private chartered plane flights, software services and rent at one of its San Francisco offices.

At least a dozen more cuts on Friday night affected workers in the company’s Dublin and Singapore offices, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing non-public changes. They included Nur Azhar Bin Ayob, the head of site integrity for Twitter’s Asia-Pacific region, a relatively recent hire; and Analuisa Dominguez, Twitter’s senior director of revenue policy.

Twitter Inc., under new owner Elon Musk, has made deeper cuts into its already radically diminished trust and safety team handling global content moderation, as well as to the unit related to hate speech and harassment, according to people familiar with the matter.

After getting the dogs used to this treat-through-the-window pattern, the researchers added new behaviors: withholding treats intentionally and “unintentionally.” Intentionally withheld meant that the researcher placed the treat in front of herself. For the unintentional conditions, the researcher either clumsily dropped the treat, or the partition was blocked to make it impossible to give the treat through the partition.

“[I]t would be interesting to adapt this design to wolves,” the researchers wrote. “Assuming that dogs do understand human intentional action, it would be of high interest whether this capacity developed during domestication or whether it was a capacity that was already present in wolves and only had to be generalized to humans.” Tags

Theory of mind was once considered an ability unique to humans. In the context of intentionality, you are using it when you find yourself asking questions like: Did that stranger intend not to hold the door open for me, or did he just not see me? Without other contextual clues, it is difficult to understand others’ intentions. After all, we cannot access other people’s minds. We can only conjure theories.

It is not quite clear. After all, the dogs’ reactions might be influenced by behavioral cues from the researchers, such as their vocal cues or body language. Alternatively, the times when the researcher intentionally withheld the treats might have given the dog the idea that the treats belonged to the researcher, potentially discouraging the dog from pursuing the treats in subsequent trials.

The question centers on the difficult cognitive task of interpreting intentionality. Psychologists consider this task to be a key part of theory of mind, which is the ability to attribute mental states — intents, beliefs, desires, emotions, and knowledge — to other people.

Dog Emotion and Cognition : Theory of Mind, Part 1

Udell, Dorey, and Wynne (in press) have reported an experiment in which wolves, shelter dogs, and pet dogs all showed a significant preference for begging from a person who faced them (seer) over a person whose back was turned to them (blind experimenter). On tests with the blind persons eyes covered with a bucket, a book, or a camera, pet dogs showed more preference for the seer than did wolves and shelter dogs. We agree with the authors position that most of these findings are best explained by preexperimental learning experienced by the subjects. We argue, however, that the perspective-taking task is not a good test of the domestication theory or of the theory of mind in dogs. The problem we see is that use of the perspective-taking task, combined with preexperimental learning in all the subjects, strongly biases the outcome in favor of a behavioral learning interpretation. Tasks less influenced by preexperimental training would provide less confounded tests of domestication and theory of mind.