Dogs may Understand Human Point of View

Poster for Juliane Kaminski

Poster for Juliane Kaminski

The October talk will be given by Dr Juliane Kaminski of the Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth. As the title suggests, the topic for the evening will be dogs with an insight into how they think.

Domestic dogs are much more likely to steal food when they think nobody can see them, suggesting for the first time they are capable of understanding a human’s point of view.

Many dog owners think their pets are clever or that they understand humans but, until now, this has not been tested by science.

Juliane has shown that when a human forbids a dog from taking food, dogs are four times more likely to disobey in a dark room than a lit room, suggesting they take into account what the human can or cannot see.

Dr Kaminski said: “That’s incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can’t see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective.”

Dog played with his food.

Dog played with his food by BuzzFarmers.

Dr Kaminski describes her background and research interests on her staff profile page:

I am a Lecturer in the psychology Department of the University of Portsmouth. Before that I was the group leader of the research group “Evolutionary Roots of Human Social Interaction” at the Max Planck Institute for evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig/ Germany where I also completed my PhD in 2005 (with Michael Tomasello & Josep Call). I was also a Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College and a member of the Experimental Psychology lab of Cambridge University.

My main research interest is the evolution of human sociality with a particular focus on social cognition. Here I am especially interested in the individual’s understanding of others’ perception, knowledge, intentions, desires and beliefs. I am also interested in questions concerning cooperation and communication among individuals. In my research I follow a comparative approach, that is, I select meaningful groups for comparisons. One comparison is that of humans with their closest living relatives, the great apes. Another comparison is that of humans with one of their closest living domesticated species, the domestic dog.