Yale Researchers Study How Dogs Think

How do dogs think? Dogs are man’s best friend.  But in reality, we have no idea what our beloved dogs have in mind and a group of researchers determined to find out.

Psychologist Laurie Santos is the head of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University. She and other researchers are working on a study to better understand how dogs think.

“Really the purpose of the center is to figure out what’s going on inside dogs’ heads, “she said. “They are guys that live with us. They grow up with us. We share our homes and our families with them and yet scientifically, we don’t know that much about how dogs think.”


Researchers study whether dogs pick up on human social signals, a dog’s decisions making process and, in one current study, Santos and her team are acting out puppet shows to discover whether dogs are moral or not.

In the first scene, a puppet rat helps a puppet hedgehog up a hill. In the next scene, the puppet rat pushes the puppet hedgehog down. After watching the scenes play twice, the dog is given a choice to see the nice or the mean puppet rat.

“This exact study has been done with human infants,” Santos said. “What you find is that they can tell the difference between the mean puppet and the nice puppet, and they prefer tointeract with the nice puppet.”

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While Santos and her team continuously work to crack the dog code, one thing remains consistent: Dogs always observe humans.

“Dogs are just so attuned to what we do,” she said. “They’re watching our subtle behaviors. They’re paying attention to what we pay attention to, and this might be the key to their success.”

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Image: Robert Hensley/Flickr
Source: Today Pets

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