APDT Conference: Day 5.2

You know what it’s like when you come home after five weeks overseas – it takes some time to get into the blogging again as there are so many things to do back home. But, I’ve finally decided it’s time …

Second last session for the conference and I listened to Julie Hecht on “The Science and Politics of Anthropomorphism”. Fascinating topic, supported very well with some great research and reference to this document – EpleySchroederWaytz2013

People generally anthropomorphise because of a need for social connection with others. Those who are lonely should anthropomorphise more as do those who like to feel in control of the environment. There is also an expectancy violation – i.e something acting not according to our expectations – think of when the computer doesn’t compute the way you would like, it is out to get you, isn’t it.

Anthropomorphism is not as bad as some would suggest and there are benefits. It can be useful when teaching and research demonstrates the benefits in stroking an animal. This has an affect on social support where a person believes they are cared for and loved and being a part of a network of social obligation.

However, anthropomorphism may be a contributor to behaviour problems. The conflict is when to anthropomorphise and when not to. Julie then showed the following clip –

This was followed with research on the value of reward and what happens when a greater reward is given to another for doing the same task. She showed this clip about capuchin monkeys, which is quite interesting –

… and followed this with the research involving dogs. In the first a border collie was asked to do a basic obedience command but was not rewarded. In the presence of another dog doing the same task, which was rewarded with food, the border collie stopped offering the behaviour quicker than when alone.

Further research involved two dogs being recalled to different handlers with different rewards. This is a link to the abstract on that research. Basically, the dog went to where there was greater reward even if previously treated unfairly.

Then came some more research on dogs and their “guilty looks”. Again, this was fascinating to see what we think actually supported in research. Here’s a link or two.

The research is conducted through the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab of which, Julie Hecht is the lab manager.

This was a great session and another reason I like this conference – not just dog trainers but theories based on actual research and science. One more session to go – Ian Dunbar.

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