Dogs can distinguish between intentional & unintentional actions of humans!

When dogs interact with humans, they can distinguish between intentional and unintentional actions. In a test, the dogs were put through three situations where they were not given a reward. In one situation, the experimenter intentionally withheld the reward, while in the other two situations, the experimenter accidentally didn't give the reward due to clumsiness or external factors. The dogs reacted differently depending on whether the experimenter meant to withhold the reward or not.
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When dogs interact with humans, they often display appropriate reactions to human actions. It is not clear whether dogs respond solely to the outcomes of these actions or if they can differentiate between different types of actions. Can dogs distinguish between intentional and unintentional human actions, even when the outcomes are the same? The researchers conducted a study using the "Unwilling vs. Unable" paradigm to test dogs' ability to discriminate between these action categories. In this paradigm, dogs' reactions to intentional and unintentional human behavior were compared. Dogs were exposed to three conditions: In the unwilling-condition, an experimenter intentionally withheld a reward from them. In the two unable-conditions, the experimenter unintentionally withheld the reward, either due to clumsiness or physical inability to give the reward to the dog. Dogs clearly differentiated between the unwilling and unable conditions in their spontaneous behavior. This suggests that dogs are indeed capable of distinguishing intentional actions from unintentional behavior. They discuss these findings in relation to dogs' understanding of human intentional action.

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© 2021. The Author(s). / PubMed