April 13, 2009

Dogs studied to learn about human behavior

A Harvard University professor says a study at his Massachusetts school is focused on dogs' thinking to better understand human behavior.

Harvard Professor Marc Hauser said by studying canines, scientists at the prestigious university's Canine Cognition Lab hope to gain insights into the human mind, The Boston Globe said Monday.

Here's this species we live with. Everyone has their views about how smart they are. No doubt we are overinterpreting -- and in some cases underinterpreting, the head of the new lab said. To what extent is an animal that's really been bred to be with humans capable of some of the same psychological mechanisms?

The Harvard study includes tests to determine if dogs can understand basic communicative gestures including gesturing to a food bucket, the Globe said.

University of Florida psychology professor Clive Wynne told the newspaper such studies on canines have been been a long time coming.

Psychologists have been ignoring animals that were sleeping quietly at their feet while they were doing work on rats and pigeons, Wynne said.