Dogs Might Be More Rational Than Humans

May 17, 2018

By Yasemin Saplakoglu

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — At the 2018 Liberty Science Center Genius Gala, Laurie Santos, one of the night’s honorees, performed an experiment on stage. She showed the audience a box with a cylindrical handle jutting from its side. She first jiggled the handle a few times and then opened the top of the box. She then repeated the process.

Santos said that if she asked a human to then open the box, the human would do the exact same thing: try to jiggle the handle first before attempting to pop the top open. But instead of asking a human, Santos invited a dog onto the stage to try to open the box, which contained a reward in the form of a doggy treat. Santos showed the dog, just as she did humans, how to open the box: Jiggle the handle, and open the top. The dog watched closely, but when it came time to claim its treat, it did its own sniffing and, ignoring the handle, popped the top open with its nose. It turns out that the handle wasn’t connected to anything in the box and had nothing to do with opening it.

Dogs are “really good at learning from us, but they might, in funny ways, be better at learning from us than we are from ourselves,” Santos, a cognitive psychologist at Yale University, told Live Science. They are “less irrational in following our behavior than humans are.”

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4 comments on “Dogs Might Be More Rational Than Humans

  • I doubt if this showed anything more profound than that the dogs couldn’t understand the relationship between the handle and the lid of the box, even if there had been one. If the handle had indeed operated a lock I doubt if any dog would have been able to open the box but any human would. Many animals including some birds are far more capable of understanding mechanisms than dogs are.

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  • Arkrid, I agree. This was more a test of the simplicity of the canine mind.
    They also will follow their nose among all other hints.
    I enjoy the surprise people get when they place a treat in three cups and make the dog decide which one it’s under.
    As long as the dog still has a nose and isn’t entirely stupid, he will get the reward.

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  • @OP – Dogs Might Be More Rational Than Humans

    When it comes to looking for intelligence in dogs, first you have to pick the species and the breed! . . . . .

    Some which have been intensively selected by humans for other features, are not at all bright in the brain department!

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  • This is just a deeply flawed version of Dr Victoria Horner’s puzzle box experiment used with human and chimp kids.

    Without dogs mastering handles to open boxes first, without expecting handles to work as reliable openers and without see through boxes to see a disconnected handle, this experiment is meaningless. Why was it brought to out attention?

    Sheepdogs, especially collies are the cleverest by far in my experience, straight down to work on jumping out of the Land Rover. The dumbest, Afghan hounds.. But then their people fix everything for them, call them back from where ever they have brainlessly run to, to jump in the back of the Range Rover.

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