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Curr Biol. 2012 Feb 7;22(3):209-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.12.018. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Dogs' gaze following is tuned to human communicative signals.

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1
Cognitive Development Center, Central European University, Hattyú 14, 1051 Budapest, Hungary.

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that preverbal infants' gaze following can be triggered only if an actor's head turn is preceded by the expression of communicative intent [1]. Such connectedness between ostensive and referential signals may be uniquely human, enabling infants to effectively respond to referential communication directed to them. In the light of increasing evidence of dogs' social communicative skills [2], an intriguing question is whether dogs' responsiveness to human directional gestures [3] is associated with the situational context in an infant-like manner. Borrowing a method used in infant studies [1], dogs watched video presentations of a human actor turning toward one of two objects, and their eye-gaze patterns were recorded with an eye tracker. Results show a higher tendency of gaze following in dogs when the human's head turning was preceded by the expression of communicative intent (direct gaze, addressing). This is the first evidence to show that (1) eye-tracking techniques can be used for studying dogs' social skills and (2) the exploitation of human gaze cues depends on the communicatively relevant pattern of ostensive and referential signals in dogs. Our findings give further support to the existence of a functionally infant-analog social competence in this species.

PMID:
22226744
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2011.12.018
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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