Domestic Dogs Prefer Prosocial to Antisocial Humans

Graduation Year


Publication Date

Spring 2018


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Domestic dogs possess high aptitude for following social cues from humans, performing similar to human infants and toddlers at understanding gestures, intentionally, and affective states, as well as other displays of social intelligence. The present study seeks to determine whether dogs, like human infants, show a preference towards actors engaging in prosocial behavior compared to those engaging in antisocial behavior. Fifty-four dog subjects watched as a human actor attempted to retrieve a clipboard that was out of reach. Two additional (non-protagonist) experimenters performed one of three actions: handing the clipboard to the first experimenter (the helper), moving the clipboard farther away from the first experimenter (the hinderer), or not interacting with the clipboard in any capacity (the neutral actor). After this series of social interactions, these two experimenters then offered the dog a treat. We measured which experimenter the dogs first approached and accepted a treat from. Dogs initially approached and accepted food from a prosocial human (helper) compared to an antisocial human (hinderer). These results suggest that preferences towards prosocial individuals may represent a component of social evolution which shaped both human and nonhuman social cognition.



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