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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46880. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046880. Epub 2012 Oct 8.

Dogs (Canis familiaris) evaluate humans on the basis of direct experiences only.

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  • 1Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.


Reputation formation is a key component in the social interactions of many animal species. An evaluation of reputation is drawn from two principal sources: direct experience of an individual and indirect experience from observing that individual interacting with a third party. In the current study we investigated whether dogs use direct and/or indirect experience to choose between two human interactants. In the first experiment, subjects had direct interaction either with a "nice" human (who played with, talked to and stroked the dog) or with an "ignoring" experimenter who ignored the dog completely. Results showed that the dogs stayed longer close to the "nice" human. In a second experiment the dogs observed a "nice" or "ignoring" human interacting with another dog. This indirect experience, however, did not lead to a preference between the two humans. These results suggest that the dogs in our study evaluated humans solely on the basis of direct experience.

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