Functioning in our everyday lives requires that humans rely on organizing and categorizing our world. This ability to categorize rests on object individuation, the ability to track the identity of objects when they leave and reenter sight. Objects can be individuated using three types of information: spatiotemporal, object property and object kind. Surprisingly, noun comprehension may affect infants’ use of object kind information (Xu 1999; Xu 2002). However, research using a comparative approach suggests that the ability to use kind information to aid in object individuation may not be unique to humans: great apes, rhesus monkeys and dogs all successfully individuate objects using spatiotemporal and property/kind information (Brauer & Call 2011; Phillips & Santos 2005; Uller 1997). Little is known about non-linguistic animals’ ability to individuate objects using kind information alone. Here we explore the effect of a language cue on dogs’ ability to use kind information for object individuation. We recruited 24 dogs to participate in a violation of expectation paradigm and subsequently analyzed mean looking times in expected versus unexpected outcomes. Results did not support our predictions: dogs looked equally long at expected and unexpected outcomes for all individuation cues. However, our methodology may have lacked appropriate controls, thus future research into this topic is warranted.
Stumph, Ellen, "This or that?: Object individuation in domesticated dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)" (2019). Honors Projects. 194.