Friday, November 13, 2009

Duke Canine Cognition Center

Last week I got to participate in a real scientific experiment at the Duke University Canine Cognition Center. Dr. Brian Hare studies cognition and evolution. While he mostly studies chimpanzees and bonobos, he is also very interested in us. He wants to know how dogs solve problems and how our social intelligence evolved. You can read more about his fascinating work here. Unfortunately I did not get to meet him while I was at Duke. I think anyone who walks around with a bonobo puppy on his head must be a nice guy.

Barbara had signed me and Ambrose up for the research studies and I got picked to be in one of their experiments (who knows what results they will get if they ever test Ambrose?). We arrived at the center and the students all made a big fuss over me. They let me sniff all around and get used to the room.

These students conducted the study. First they had me practice getting treats on the floor (I hardly needed to practice that!). Then one of them put a treat under one of two plastic cups and I had to find it. Sometimes Barbara would point to a cup and sometimes one of the students would point.

I thought it was a very easy test. I mean I get cookies out of treat dispensing toys all the time. It was not hard to find a treat under a plastic cup! Sometimes they would trick me though and only pretend to put a treat under a cup!

Now I will say that the treats that the students used were pretty boring. They had obviously not read my ground breaking treat palatability research study that I posted last week. If they had, I am sure that they wouldn't have used 1 paw and 2 paw level treats. Maybe I should try to get my work published in Science or Nature.

I was very pleased to be included in this important problem solving research. I hope it helps them learn more about how dogs' minds work. And of course I am always up for any opportunity to get more treats.

It has been raining a lot here lately so we haven't been able to do to many fun things to blog about. Tomorrow we are going to see some of Ambrose's brothers and sisters. I hope that they are not as goofy as he is. I won't be able to stand it.


Tom, Tama-Chan, Sei-Chan, Yuu-Chan said...

We would say, Niamh, that the REAL treat was for the students who got the opportunity to work with YOU!

Maggie and Mitch said...

What a neat day you had and a very filling one with all of those treats, Niamh!

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

Mango said...

I think being part of an experiment sounds like plenty of fun for sure. You must have thrown their intelligents detectors off the meter!


Clive said...

Niamh, that sounded like the most interesting day. The students must have so enjoyed working with you!

take care

Chef ·˙ ۛ ♥ said...

How interesting, Niamh. You have made a very important contribution to science. And you got treats!! That's even better!


Honey the Great Dane said...

Gosh Niamh - what a great way to contribute to science and the education about dogdom - finding treats???!!!! You lucky pup!! That was so interesting to read - thanks so much for posting about it. Do you know any more details about the study they are doing with dogs - like exactly what they are testing? My human did Zoology at college and Animal Behaviour was one of her chosen topics, so she is always really interested in this sort of stuff!

Honey the Great Dane

Lorenza said...

Hi, Niamh!
Sure it was great to participate in that experiment!
Sorry about the boring treats! I hope you got the ones you like the most when you came home!
Have a great weekend!
Kisses and hugs

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

Sounds like it was a good day Niamh. :-)

Holly & Zac xx

Hero said...

What a neat experiment to participate in! Too bad they weren't aware what treats would really motivate a pup. My mom did a test like that with me and Tagpi. I was really good at understanding when my mom pointed or looked at a cup, but Tagpi was more interested in destroying all the cups than paying attention to my mom for cues.

Agatha and Archie said...

Yep any guy that has a monkey on his head is ok by us. PL2 is looking into getting us into a study at Harvard about dogs and their decision making abilities. I think I will leave Archie at home....Speaking of which... Ambroise didn't go?? Love A+A

Gus, Louie and Callie said...

You certainly showed those bi-peds didn't you.. Great job..
You would have no trouble checking mom's pockets..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie