Testing the social dog hypothesis: are dogs also more skilled than chimpanzees in non-communicative social tasks?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Relative to non-human primates, domestic dogs possess a number of social skills that seem exceptional-particularly in solving problems involving cooperation and communication with humans. However, the degree to which dogs' unusual skills are contextually specialized is still unclear. Here, we presented dogs with a social problem that did not require them to use cooperative-communicative cues and compared their performance to that of chimpanzees to assess the extent of dogs' capabilities relative to those of non-human primates. We tested the abilities of dogs and chimpanzees to inhibit previously learned responses by using a social and a non-social version of a reversal learning task. In contrast to previous findings in cooperative-communicative social tasks, dogs were not more skilled on the social task than the non-social task, while chimpanzees were significantly better in the social paradigm. Chimpanzees were able to inhibit their prior learning better and more quickly in the social paradigm than they were in the non-social paradigm, while dogs took more time to inhibit what they had learned in both versions of the task. These results suggest that the dogs' sophisticated social skills in using human social cues may be relatively specialized as a result of domestication.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wobber, V; Hare, B

Published Date

  • July 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 81 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 423 - 428

PubMed ID

  • 19376207

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1872-8308

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0376-6357

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.04.003


  • eng