Dogs possess a more reliable instinct for instantly recognizing bad people than we do, according to a groundbreaking new research from a Japanese university.
In a study conducted by a group of researchers led by Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University, Japan, it was discovered that dogs are capable of quickly discerning whether a person is worthy of their trust, and these snap judgements usually prove far more reliable than judgements made by people.
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The Japanese study included 34 dogs and was comprised of three rounds. In the first round, the researchers would point out to a container with a hidden food inside. The dogs, knowing how to follow body cues, would run towards the designated container and enjoy the treats.
In the second round, the same experimenters would point out to a container, but this time there was no food stashed inside. All of the dogs would run towards the empty container, only to face disappointment and realize they had been mislead.
In the third and last round of the experimental study, the researchers would point to a container with hidden food. However this time the dogs didn’t run towards the container. This suggests that the dogs remembered the time they were mislead, and assessed whether the person leading them was a reliable guide or not.
According to the lead researcher, Akiko Takaoka, it was surprising how the dogs quickly decided not to trust a human, showing how they can use their previous experience with humans to develop an instinct for discerning whether a person is reliable or not.
And this instinct is remarkably accurate, according to the researchers.
Sophisticated social intelligence
“Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans,” Takaoka said.
Takaoka’s study is not the only experimental research proving a dog’s ability to tell if a person can be trusted or not. In a separate study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, dogs were able to demonstrate their ability to decide whom they can trust by mere observation.
The experiment was divided into three participants, one group for dog owners, one group for strangers who will help, and another group of strangers who will not help. The study requires the dog owners to ask for an assistance from the two group of strangers.
As it turned out, dogs are good readers of social cues as well. Not only were the dogs hesitant around the strangers who did not help their owners, they did not accept any dog treat from them as well. All of the dogs involved in the study, did not want to do anything with the people who ‘mistreated’ their owners.
“They evaluate the information we give them based in part on how reliable it is in helping them accomplish their goals. Many family dogs, for instance, will ignore your gesture when you point incorrectly and use their memory to find a hidden treat,” Brian Hare, the chief scientific officer at Dognition, says.
The groundbreaking conclusion of the two separate studies, reflect a lot of truth to Bill Murray’s words, “I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.”
Clearly, dogs are very intelligent and complex creatures just like us. They are capable of understanding and reading human gestures and social cues. This proves that they are not mindless creatures who simply listen, for they know whom to trust!