Wolves understand cause and effect better than dogs

September 15, 2017
Lead researcher Michelle Lampe conducts a test with a wolf in the Wolf Science Center. Credit: Caroline Ritter

Domestic dogs may have lost some of their innate animal skill when they came in from the wild, according to new research conducted at the Wolf Science Center in Austria.

In a study comparing and dogs living in near-identical environments, wolves were better at working some things out, particularly at grasping the notion of cause and effect.

The research, by an international team in Austria, the Netherlands, Germany and England, is published in Scientific Reports.

Recently graduated lead author Michelle Lampe, of the Radboud University, in the Netherlands, said: "Children learn the principle of cause and effect early on, that if you touch a hot stove you will get burned, for example. Our study has shown the wolf also understands such connections, but our four-legged domesticated companions don't.

"It seems wolves are better at working some things out than dogs, which suggests domestication has changed dogs' cognitive abilities.

"It can't be ruled out that the differences could be due to wolves being more persistent in exploring than dogs. Dogs are conditioned to receive food from us, whereas wolves have to find food themselves in nature."

Michelle Lampe, Dr Zsófia Virányi, of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Dr Juliane Bräuer, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany, and Dr Juliane Kaminski, of the University of Portsmouth, UK, investigated the reasoning abilities of 14 dogs and 12 human-socialised wolves.

Credit: University of Portsmouth

The tests included the animals having to choose between two objects, one containing hidden food and the other empty to see whether the animals could make use of communicative cues, such as direct eye-contact and pointing gestures to choose the correct container.

Both dogs and wolves were able to follow communicative cues to find hidden food. However, in the absence of a human to show them where the was, only the wolves were able to make causal inferences.

Dr Kaminski said: "In this experiment, the wolves showed a high understanding of cause and effect, which the dogs lacked.

"The wolves' use of cues connected to eye-contact was particularly interesting because it may help science better understand the process by which wild animals became our four-legged companions."

Dr Bräuer said: "The wolves' ability to understand human communicative cues after being socialised with humans, may have made it possible to become domesticated."

Lead researcher Michelle Lampe works with a wolf, as reported in Scientific Reports. Credit: Felicity Robinson, Wolf Science Center

The authors say the results are compelling because in addition to comparing dogs and wolves living under identical conditions, with the same history and training regime, they also compared living in packs to pets living with their human families.

Fourth author, Dr Virányi, said: "We were able to tease apart the influence of domestication from raising and living conditions. Few studies have achieved such strong, clear comparisons, though we must caution, too, that the wolves we studied are used to humans, which needs to be taken into account."

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14 comments

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TheGhostofOtto1923
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2017
Dogs have been unnaturally selected for their ability to ignore their senses, their reason, and their instincts, just like us. This is called domestication.
mavaddat
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2017
Perhaps the dogs discredited the cues that were not visibly authored by humans, because in their (prior) experience, following random cues was not rewarded (in cities, such cues are background noise). For wolves, those cues are not random (they look very unnatural and out of place), so it draws their attention.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2017
Perhaps the dogs discredited the cues that were not visibly authored by humans, because in their (prior) experience, following random cues was not rewarded (in cities, such cues are background noise). For wolves, those cues are not random (they look very unnatural and out of place), so it draws their attention.
Perhaps you should read the paper and understand how it was actually done before commenting on it.
mavaddat
3 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2017
TheGhostofOtto1923 wrote:
Perhaps you should read the paper and understand how it was actually done before commenting on it.

I did read the paper, which is available free from nature.com at the following doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-12055-6
Lampe M, Bräuer J, Kaminski J, Virányi Z. The effects of domestication and ontogeny on cognition in dogs and wolves. Scientific Reports. 2017 Sep 15;7(1):11690.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2017
TheGhostofOtto1923 wrote:
Perhaps you should read the paper and understand how it was actually done before commenting on it.

I did read the paper, which is available free from nature.com at the following doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-12055-6
Lampe M, Bräuer J, Kaminski J, Virányi Z. The effects of domestication and ontogeny on cognition in dogs and wolves. Scientific Reports. 2017 Sep 15;7(1):11690.
So explain how your speculations are related to the methodology of the authors.

For instance, start your explanation thusly; "The authors conducted their experiments [in such and such a manner] but apparently failed to take into account [my insights as follows]...

Give it a shot.
Hyperfuzzy
not rated yet Sep 16, 2017
If you're a predator, you can follow targets; oh, reward!
Dog, where's the treat, don'y play.
mavaddat
5 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2017
TheGhostofOtto1923 wrote:
So explain how your speculations are related to the methodology of the authors.
For instance, start your explanation thusly; "The authors conducted their experiments [in such and such a manner] but apparently failed to take into account [my insights as follows]...
Give it a shot.

I never suggested the authors failed to take anything into account nor does my proposal contradict anything written by the authors in that study. In the section entitled "Discussion" starting on page 3 of the PDF version, the authors are quite broad-minded and rigorous in exploring a number of possible explanations for their observations. The paragraphs from "Our results seem to imply" onto the end of the discussion are paramount. I think anyone wishing to better appreciate the authors' understanding of what they observed will benefit from reading this section carefully. For those wishing to find the article, just search the phrase "DOI 10.1038/s41598-017-12055-6".
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2017
I never suggested the authors failed to take anything into account
Sure you did. You suggested that researchers who had been working on this study for months had failed to account for influences that had occurred to you after reading a physorg press release for only a few minutes.

And even after copy/pasting the name of the article twice, you failed to justify this ignorance.

How come?

Specifically
Perhaps the dogs discredited the cues that were not visibly authored by humans, because in their (prior) experience, following random cues was not rewarded (in cities, such cues are background noise). For wolves, those cues are not random (they look very unnatural and out of place), so it draws their attention
- what makes YOU think the experts, who had after all been working on this study for months, and who had spent years learning how to conduct studies such as this, failed to consider these things, which had occurred to YOU after only a few minutes?
KBK
1 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2017
familiarization, and entrainment.

The why of domesticated dogs and their seeming loss of some aspects.

Read "the field' by Lynn Mctaggart. Good solid science on the zero point field and consciousness.

It's about a superior mental cohesion becoming a force to which the mind of lesser cohesion attunes itself to, responds to, becomes one with.

"It was apparent that ordinary humans had the ability to influence other living things on many levels: muscle activity, motor activity, cellular changes, nervous system activity. One other strange possibility was suggested by all these studies: the influence increased depending on how much it mattered to the influencer, or how much he or she could relate to the object of influence."

"The combined meta-analysis of all ganzfeld experiments produced a result with odds against chance of ten billion to one."
~~~~
Read all the science out there, not just what you want to hear.
mavaddat
5 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2017
TheGhostofOtto1923 wrote:
Sure you did. You suggested that researchers who had been working on this study for months had failed to account for influences that had occurred to you after reading a physorg press release for only a few minutes.

Nope. Again, if you had read the paper, you would see that my original comment reiterated their own explanations (cf., "Discussion" starting on page 3 of the PDF version) and that there was no disagreement between my comment and the authors' explanations. It appears you did not actually read the paper despite all your grandstanding to have done.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2017
I didn't have to read the paper. We determined that you didn't before commenting on it.

And you continue to bluff by referring to the doc without actually citing it. How specifically did your comment reiterate their explanation and why did you feel the need to restate it as if the authors hadn't already covered it?

Oh that's right you didn't read it in the first place.

Lucky guess I suppose.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2017
"The combined meta-analysis of all ganzfeld experiments produced a result with odds against chance of ten billion to one."
~~~~
-ie voodoo.
Read all the science out there, not just what you want
-including all the made-up voodoo bullshit. Some of it is entertaining.
sascoflame
not rated yet Sep 18, 2017
More unending anti-human propaganda. We know from the domestication of foxes that dogs have been bred to be more accepting of humans and less accepting of wolves. Dogs will often protect a human they do not know from harm and other animals. Dogs rely on humans to solve problems for them so there is no way to compare dogs and wolves as dogs will always assume human help. Go ahead hate people you have lost all credibility by now.
mavaddat
5 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2017
TheGhostofOtto1923 wrote:
I didn't have to read the paper.

Thank you for coming clean and admitting you had not (and still have not) bothered to read the paper, and that you assumed others were as lazy as yourself. Now I can properly ignore your replies.

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