U. of British Columbia Professor of Psychology Stanley Coren writes in Psychology Today, Feb. 24, 2015, that like human children, young dogs approach almost every human being in a trusting and friendly manner. Over time, the human child will learn that some people are more reliable and worthy of trust than others.
Two new studies show that the same holds for dogs. If you frequently lie to dogs, they lose their trust in you and begin to act as if they can no longer rely on the information that you give them.
In a pair of studies published in the journal Animal Cognition, “Do dogs follow behavioral cues from an unreliable human?,” a team led by Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University in Japan showed that dogs will only use information and follow commands from people who have a track record of being trustworthy, that is, who don’t lie to them.
Most dogs will go in the direction that a human being points to. The first Kyoto study consists of three parts and involved 24 dogs. Two opaque containers were presented to the dog—under one of which was hidden a bit of food.
- In Part One of the study, a researcher first pointed toward the container that had the food concealed inside. As expected, the dogs ran to that one and got the reward.
- Part Two of the study was designed to show that this human was no longer trustworthy. In the presence and view of the dogs, the researcher showed that one of the containers had food under it while the other did not. However, just before the dogs were freed to go to the containers, the man pointed toward the empty container and encouraged the dogs to go to it. In other words, the man was lying.
- Part Three of the study was a repeat of Part One, with the dogs being shown two containers and the experimenter again correctly pointing toward the one which had the concealed food.
The results were quite dramatic:
- In Part One of the experiment, the dogs showed their usual trust of people and the majority went to the container that the researcher had (correctly) pointed to.
- In Part Three of the experiment, the dogs appeared to have learned that the researcher was untrustworthy — only 8% of the 24 dogs went in the direction that he pointed to although he was being truthful this time. In other words, once a dog finds you in a lie, the dog decides that person is unreliable and stops following the cues he/she gives.
Takaoka says she was surprised that the dogs “devalued the reliability of a human” so quickly. “Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans.”
Did the dogs learn that all people are unreliable in this task, or that only this particular person is a liar? Previous research has shown that dogs make judgments about the personality and behavior of specific people, and do not generalize to all people. Thus dogs learn to pick out those people who are selfish and those who are not.
So the researchers repeated the experiment with a new group of 26 dogs. The first two parts of the study were the same as in the initial experiment—thus, in the first phase the experimenter reliably pointed to the baited container, and in the second phase showed the dog which container contained the piece of food, but then pointed to the empty one in order to prove his unreliability. The trick in this second study was that in the final phase the “liar” was removed and a new experimenter, previously unknown to the dog, replaced him for testing. But the dogs proved that they had not lost faith in all humans but only in the one who had been shown to be untrustworthy. They did this by once again acting reliably on the information provided by the pointing of the new person and going to where he pointed.
In an interview with the BBC, Takaoka said that this means that dogs can use their experience with particular human beings to determine whether they can be trusted. They determine the nature and personality characteristics of each person, then use this information to predict the future behavior of specific people, and adjust their behavior accordingly.
It appears dogs are better than young human children at judging the reliability and trustworthiness of people.
A study conducted by a team of researchers led by Kimberly Vanderbilt of the University of California, San Diego, did a somewhat similar study using preschool-aged children. They found that even after the children had been shown that some people were untrustworthy, 3-year-olds tended to accept the advice of the known liars to the same degree as from the truthful people. Four-year-olds were more skeptical but were still accepting advice from the unreliable people, and only the 5-year-olds systematically preferred the information from the more trustworthy person.
This means that dogs, whom scientists usually credit with having mental abilities similar to a human 2- to 3-year-old child, are more discerning about liars than human children younger than 5 years old.
The Kyoto experiments also demonstrate that, as the past 6 years and 2 months have shown, dogs are smarter and better judges of character than MILLIONS of American adults who, despite Barack Obama’s many and repeated lies, still believe in and support him. (69,498,516 Americans voted for Obama in 2008; 65,918,507 in 2012.)
Here’s a list of Obama’s lies, compiled by PolitiFact:
- “My position hasn’t changed” on using executive authority to address immigration issues.
- Says his comment about extremists being a JV team “wasn’t specifically referring to” Islamic State.
- “Most young Americans right now, they’re not covered” by health insurance.
- “We’ve got close to 7 million Americans who have access to health care for the first time because of Medicaid expansion.”
- The “most realistic estimates” for jobs created by Keystone XL are “maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline.”
- “We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas.”
- “Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts” to create a legal framework on counterterrorism.
- “If the House of Representatives fails to extend the middle-class tax cuts, 400,000 middle-class Rhode Island families will see their federal income taxes increase.”
- Says Mitt Romney “called the Arizona law a model for the nation.”
- “Under Gov. Romney’s definition … Donald Trump is a small business.”
- Because of Obamacare, “over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up — it’s true — but they’ve gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years.”
- “Over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of” President George W. Bush’s policies and the recession.
- “Fast and Furious” began under the Bush administration.
- Mitt Romney “says the Arizona immigration law should be a model for the nation.”
- Says Mitt Romney would deny gay people the right to adopt children.
- “The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me.”
- “Under the Romney/Ryan budget, interest rates on federal student loans would be allowed to double.”
- If the Supreme Court throws out the federal health care law, it “would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
- “For the first time since 1990, American manufacturers are creating new jobs.”
- “Preventive care … saves money, for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody.”
- “Thirty million Americans, including a lot of people in Florida, are going to be able to get healthcare next year because of that law.”
- “I made a bunch of these promises during the campaign. … We’ve got about 60 percent done in three years.”
- Under President Barack Obama, the United States has “doubled our exports.”
- Says stories about his birth certificate drowned out media coverage of the Republican and White House budget plans the week of April 11.
- The president’s proposed budget “will help reduce the deficit by $400 billion over the next decade to the lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was president.”
- Under the White House’s budget proposal, “we will not be adding more to the national debt” by the middle of the decade.
- Twelve judges have thrown out legal challenges to the health care law because they rejected “the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional.”
- “I didn’t raise taxes once.”
- When President Franklin D. Roosevelt started Social Security, “it only affected widows and orphans,” and when Medicare began, “it was a small program.”
- The Bush administration had been “giving (auto companies) billions of dollars and just asking nothing in return.”
- “The vast majority of the money I got was from small donors all across the country.”
- “We’ve excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs.”
- When Obama was interviewed by American reporters in Asia, “Not one of them asked me about Asia. Not one of them asked me about the economy.”
- Insurers delayed an Illinois man’s treatment, “and he died because of it.”
- Health reform will “give every American the same opportunity” to buy health insurance the way members of Congress do.
- Preventive care “saves money.”
- “If we went back to the obesity rates that existed back in the 1980s, the Medicare system over several years could save as much as a trillion dollars.”
- “I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter.”
- Stimulus tax cuts “began showing up in paychecks of 4.8 million Indiana households about three months ago.”
- Health insurance companies are “making record profits, right now.”
- “We import more oil today than ever before.”
- “In eighth grade math, we’ve fallen to ninth place.”
- “There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jump-start the economy.”
- “Senator McCain would pay for part of his (health care) plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare — $882-billion worth.”
- “The centerpiece of Senator McCain’s education policy is to increase the voucher program in D.C. by 2,000 slots.”
- Under John McCain’s health care plan, people get a $5,000 tax credit to buy a $12,000 health care policy, and “that’s a loss for you.”
- John McCain accused Barack Obama “of letting infants die.”
- “Oil companies …currently have 68-million acres that they’re not using.”
- McCain “has opposed stem cell research.”
- “But if my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would’ve had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week.”
- “The fact is that although we have had a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down.”
- Oil companies “haven’t touched” 68 million acres where they already have rights to drill.
- Fully inflating tires is “a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 to 4 percent.”
- John McCain refuses to support a new bipartisan energy bill “because it would take away tax breaks from oil companies like Exxon Mobil.”
- The U.S. government spends less on energy innovation “than the pet food industry invests in its own products.”
- “Our National Guard, as we saw in the Midwest flooding, can’t function as effectively as it could. I was talking to National Guard representatives. Fifteen of their 17 helicopters in this region were overseas during the flooding.”
- “I think we came down here (to Florida) one time … but we weren’t actively fundraising here.”
- “I have never said that I don’t wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins.”
- “He’s promising four more years of an administration that will push for the privatization of Social Security…”
- “We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years.”
- “Hillary Clinton believed NAFTA was a ‘boon’ to our economy.”
- “As has been noted by many observers, including Bill Clinton’s former secretary of labor, my plan does more than anybody to reduce costs.”
- Americans “have never paid more for gas at the pump.”
- “She said, you know, ‘I voted for it, but I hoped it wouldn’t pass.’ That was a quote on live TV.”
- “I know that Hillary on occasion has said — just last year said this (NAFTA) was a boon to the economy.”
- “Gas prices have never been higher, and Exxon Mobil’s profits have never been higher.”
- “If we went back to the obesity rates that existed in 1980, that would save the Medicare system a trillion dollars.”
- “John wasn’t this raging populist four years ago” when he ran for president.
- “Right now, an employer has more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than be prosecuted for hiring an undocumented worker. That has to change.”
- If African-Americans vote their percentage of the population in 2008, “Mississippi is suddenly a Democratic state.”