Dogs are social eavesdroppers, a new study suggests
Social eavesdropping is just what it sounds like—observing others in social situations and judging them based on their actions. For instance, if they’re nice to your friends, they’ll be nice to you; otherwise, you may avoid them.
Dogs do the same thing when it comes to their owner's interactions, a new study suggests.
The study, published online in ScienceDirect on June 18, was conducted by researchers at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in Tokyo.
The experiments involved a dog’s owner trying to open a container while a neutral party observed. An actor played, alternately, the role of "Helper" and "Nonhelper."
In one interaction, the dog’s owner asked for help and the actor as “Helper” helped him. In a second interaction, the dog’s owner asked for help and the actor as “Nonhelper” turned away and didn’t help. (In the Control condition, the dog’s owner did not ask for help and the actor as "Nonhelper" merely turned away.)
After each experiment, the actor and the neutral party offered food to the dog. The dog took food from the actor in the "Helper" role and Control condition, and from the the neutral party. The dog avoided the food offered by the "Nonhelper."
Researchers concluded that social eavesdropping may be shared with a nonprimate species.